Archives for February 2007

Beer Joke of the Month

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.

This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. “I don’t mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?”

“Tis odd, isn’t it?” the man replies, “You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.”

The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening, he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender said to the man, “Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all…”

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well. It’s just that I, meself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.

Søren Says

This is what is sad when one contemplates human life, that so many live out their lives in quiet lostness . . . they live, as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows. Their immortal souls are blown away, and they are not disquieted by the question of its immortality, because they are already disintegrated before they die. ~ Journals

Are You Ready?

Bob Dylan in 1980

Sherman Alexie in pain.

Ironic Catholic: Now and at the Hour of Our Death

The following is an excerpt from Ironic Catholic’s comments on my Mass Report post last week. I think this paragraph should be required reading for anyone who is going to die:

Not that I have any control over this…but when I die, I want someone to remind me about the love of Jesus Christ. I want someone to ask me about repentance and offer reconciliation. I want someone to challenge me that the best is yet to come, that this suffering joins me with Christ, and like his suffering, it is not the last word. God is here and God will be there and has already broken my path for that journey. I want to receive the anointing of the sick, and be told that God will raise me up. I don’t want someone asking if I’m “in touch with my values.” And especially if I am weak and in pain, I hope the person helping me have a holy, joyful death will not expect me to “take the lead.”

This stirs up a lot of thoughts and emotions for me. How in the past I may have had the opportunity to deliver this message to a dying friend and how I failed, how embarrassing death is and how tongue-tied it can make us, what a bastard death is but how radically and profoundly our faith in Christ confronts it. I’m reminded of how Walker Percy shined the light on this in his fiction — recall Lonnie’s death in The Moviegoer and how Binx responded to questions from Lonnie’s siblings about the hope of the resurrection, and recall the deathbed baptism scene in The Last Gentleman, how matter-of-fact and therefore how good the priest was — and of how Percy approached his own death. Percy himself often pointed to the witness of Flannery O’Connor and how she confronted death with courage and a clear vision of God’s grace. Anyway, I want to thank you, IC, for these good words.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

the Collector

From the YouTube Music Archives XXII: Ewa Podleś

The incomparable Polish contralto Ewa Podleś begins performing in Seattle Opera’s production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare tonight at McCaw Hall. As a contralto she’s the best we can do for the part of Caesar, since the role was originally written for castrati, and the last one of those died off around the turn of the last century. I went looking for previous performances by Podleś from Canada and San Diego, but unfortunately there was nothing on line. Interestingly enough, there is a clip from the same opera, but here Podleś is in the role of Cornelia, Pompey’s wife, singing Cessa Omai di Sospirare. As Pompey’s wife she spends most of the opera threatening to kill herself because her husband’s head was lopped off in one of the early scenes.

If that wasn’t complicated enough, there’s also a stunning performance by Podleś as Cleopatra in Berlioz’s ‘scène lyrique’, La mort de Cléopâtre, recorded in Montreal with Charles Dutoit conducting. According to one colorful review of the concert at, this is a performance that “will knock your dick in the dirt.” Which might come in handy for some of those castrati roles. Or something like that. In another fine clip she plays the part of La Cieca (the Blindwoman) singing Voce di donna o d’angelo from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. No testicles required there. Or eyes, come to think of it.

And if you can’t make it to Julius Caesar, she’ll be back in Seattle at the end of June to sing Mahler’s 3rd Symphony, a performance that promises to be as anatomically destructive as anything we’ve seen her do yet.

Yet Another Blog of Note

For a pleasantly rambling blog entry, which makes reference to C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, Peter Kreeft’s take on it, Pascal and his wager, Penn Jillette’s atheism, and Walker Percy’s own version of the wager, click here.

shibboleth revisited

Nebbishes and Schleps

As far as I can recall, I’ve never encountered the word “nebbish” before; but I’m pretty sure that, whatever it is, I am one. And I’m even more confident of my schlepishness. Mark Shea recently issued some interesting comments (with an apt little Percy quote) on the problem of such like among the faithful:

“Well then,” it may be asked, “if the Church is so mediocre, then why bother joining her?” To quote Walker Percy, “What else is there?” After all, it is not the Church that is mediocre, but only we, her members. The Church is, curiously, something that exists before she has any members, because it is founded not by us, but by Christ. The Church is the spotless Bride of Christ, made so by the Holy Spirit in the washing with water and the Word. We, her members, are generally nebbishes and schleps. But she is glorious and beautiful, terrible as an army with banners.

Read the entire entry.

affect, effect

Mass Report

A strange thing happened when I attended Mass last Sunday.

My wife is in the hospital on bedrest (with pregnancy complications, but all is well) so I went to mass at the parish near the hospital. From the two or three times I’d previously attended mass at this parish, I had lumped it into a pigeon hole in my mind labeled: “Den of heresy, mediocrity and weirdly unpleasant architecture.” It’s one of those places where the pews are arranged in a circle and everyone insists on refraining from referring to God by a male personal pronoun (or by a female one for that matter, to be fair). The ceiling is an upside down funnel, with a tiny skylight at the narrow end that just barely shines in the dimness of the place.

As I left my wife’s bedside, I said, “I guess I’ll go to mass at S__________ even though I hate it.” Since I was late as usual, I hopped in my car and drove the two blocks to the church. As I pulled into the parking lot, my earlier assertion of “I hate it” was reverberating in my head. “But Christ is there, that’s the main thing,” I was thinking. I was wondering if Christ suffers being in such a place. I was questioning, a little, my limited view of the question, assuming Christ’s view transcended my own petty concerns and aesthetic sensibility. But on the other hand there really are matters of truth and goodness and beauty at stake here, so maybe he does suffer it. That was the warp and drift of my thoughts as I pulled into a spot at the back of the lot (near the upscale Catholic old folks home adjacent to the church) and hopped out of my car.

A woman had just got out of a minivan nearby and I was glad to see I wasn’t the only late attendee. But then, ahead of me by a few steps, she veered to the right, away from the inverted funnel church and towards the little brick building next door, the administrative office of the church perhaps. Something hit me at that moment — and I haven’t ruled out that it could have been the Holy Spirit. In any case, I was suddenly struck by something good in the air. Maybe it was just the first hint of spring and I was duped by it, thrown off my critical high horse, but there was a definite whiff of goodness in the air, and it surprised me. I continued on into the church in the middle of the Old Testament reading. I joined another late arriver waiting at the door to the sanctuary, and then found a place under the funnel and behind a trio of folk musicians.

That sense of goodness that had hit me in the parking lot stayed with me throughout the mass. There was a new priest there since I’d last visited, one who seemed slightly twitchy in a way that evoked humility and holiness and a touch of awkward but real grace. The homily was delivered by a deacon who talked about forgiveness and turning the other cheek, citing the examples of John Paul II visiting his would-be assassin and Mother Theresa laying down her life for the poorest of the poor. He said we should pay close attention when we prayed that part of the Our Father where we say “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

We sang a hymn by the anathema Haugen, but it was a hymn I’d not heard before and it was based on the wonderful Breastplate of St. Patrick; and although, yes, you could say Haugen had bastardized St. Patrick’s prayer, watered it down like he waters down everything he touches, the song still managed to participate in the power of the original. And that’s how the entire experience struck me: that at any moment the power of what we have at our disposal, the deposit of faith, the Spirit that blows where it will, may reassert itself when we least expect it. That is my hope.

Signage (via Theocoid)


On-site tech support (tip of the hood to Ironic Catholic)

Can You Read This?

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55% of plepoe can. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but teh wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Søren Says

Thus the essential consciousness of guilt is the greatest possible immersion in existence, and it also expresses that an existing person relates himself to an eternal happiness.
– Concluding Unscientific Postscript

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