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Archives for January 2014

Beef Wellington the Third

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All manner of things went well for the sendoff last night of Aust(ral)ian bro-in-lo back to Upsidedownland (“What do you call someone from Down Under who has a suntan from Down Under?” “Aussie Ozburned”).

In what was a third go around on this sumptious recipe, my sister-in-law Lady Wellington  outdid herself  – and thanks to the help of my other sister-in-law Lady Duxelles  with just the right balance of moist and dry, these two and a third (not pictured – it still had another ten minutes in the oven) were just about as good as could exceed expectations.

Accompanying this beef’s rich pageant, my brother-in-law, the Duke of Hollandaise, added his pedigree to the work of my wife, Mistress Broccoli.  And it was all was washed down with a tarry fruity cabernet sauvignon brought to the table by yours truly, the Earl of Carnivor  – along with another in honor of my other other sister-in-law Lady Middlesister – who could not be present for the occasion. Brother in law Sir Mashalot also couldn’t be there, although his presence was evoked in spud-acular fashion.

After a reading and buttering of the royal rolls, all and sundry set to for a repast that present generations will be savoring long into the future…

Today in Popery

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So the Pope blessed a parrot belonging to a stripper. Can the estate of John Kennedy Toole file suit here?

“You know what we need in here to make money?”

“What?” Lana asked angrily.

“What we need in here is a animal.”

“A what? Jesus Christ.”

“I ain cleanin up after no animal,” Jones said, bumping his mop noisily against the legs of the bar stools…

“Look in the paper, Lana,” Darlene said. “Almost every other club on the street’s got them an animal.”

Lana turned to the entertainment pages and through Jones’ fog studied the nightclub ads.

“Well, little Darlene’s on the ball. I guess you’d like to become the manager of this club, huh?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, remember that,” Lana said and ran a finger along the ads. “Look at this. They got a snake at Jerry’s, they got them a snake at 104, a baby tiger, a chimp…”

“And that’s where the people are going,” Darlene said. “You gotta keep up with things in this business.”

“That’s a lot. Since it’s your idea, you got any suggestions?”

“I suggest we vote unanimous agains changing over to a zoo.”

“Keep on the floor,” Lana said.

“We could use my cockatoo,” Darlene said. “I been practicing a smash dance with it…Come on, Lana. Give me and the bird a chance. We’re boffo.”

“It used to be the old Kiwanis types liked to come in and watch a cute girl shake it a little. Now it’s gotta be with some kind of animal. You know what’s wrong with people today? They’re sick. It’s hard for a person to earn an honest buck.” Lana lit a cigarette and matched Jones cloud for cloud. “Okay. We audition the bird. It’s probably safer for you to be on my stage with a bird than on my stools with a cop. Bring in the goddam bird.”

Sappho Fragments Discovered!

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This news reminds me that I once wrote this:

Sappho Without Trying

No poems, no neat industry, no eponymous race or colors to invent,
She left nothing in her potpourried drawers or file cabinets;
In fact, she left no file cabinets.

She was one well worth repeating in imagination, though, worth every smooth cent
Of the lipstick and mystique, of the perfume and other per forma scents
That formed her recumbant poetic sense.

Her biographers and monographers grew lazy with their dependence
On volumes of oral information, public, private, willing testaments
Recorded in serendipitous estaminets –

Such establishments as drew the youngish, wide-eyed grad-girls, recent art-department
Types, who were either former former-lovers or former students
(All her lovers being students)

Or bothered, bothersome gentlemen who grew mustaches to call on her and spent
Themselves blind before they saw the raw shock value of artistic genius
As the seduction of genius.

No estuaries of influence, no derivative estimations of achievement,
She left only lacunae; elliptical sea-foam that followed in her wake . . .
And herself swallowed in the wake.

Suitable Accommodations

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“Waugh was here in March. Said he came to Minnesota to see me and the Indian reservations. He is also interested in Father Divine. He was all right, and his wife, but it wasn’t anything like the bout I’d anticipated from his books. Suppose that’s life.”

— J.F. Powers, letter to Robert Lowell, May 25, 1949

Oh, mercy, good people, it’s always been the same: Catholic writers huddled together in odd places and mostly failing to make a go of it. There’s even a Sister Mary Joseph Scherer who starts up a Gallery of Living Catholic Authors. But it’s a wonderful book, this is.

“The Celebrity for Believers” – interview over at Dappled Things

surfing-with-mel-cover-upright Over at Dappled Things, Bernardo Aparicio has an interview with Old Man Lickona in support of Labora Editions’ very fine hardbound edition of Surfing with Mel.

I’ll see your Pope on the cover of Rolling Stone

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…and raise you St. Francis De Sales over at Paris Review Daily:

In fact, hell has a way of rearing its infernal head at awkward moments throughout the Devout Life, perhaps as in life itself. Here’s a bit from “Balls, and Other Lawful But Dangerous Amusements,” which doesn’t mean what you think it does:

“Balls and similar gatherings are wont to attract all that is bad and vicious; all the quarrels, envyings, slanders, and indiscreet tendencies of a place will be found collected in the ballroom. While people’s bodily pores are opened by the exercise of dancing, the heart’s pores will be also opened by excitement … while you were dancing, souls were groaning in hell by reason of sins committed when similarly occupied, or in consequence thereof.”

Buzzkill, Francis! Not all his advice is so starchy, though. In “We Must Attend to the Business of Life Carefully, But Without Eagerness or Over-Anxiety,” he writes, “Imitate a little child, whom one sees holding tight with one hand to its father, while with the other it gathers strawberries or blackberries from the wayside hedge.” (I do this literally all the time—can’t recommend it highly enough.)

Still, if Francis has really been watching over the Fourth Estate for these many centuries, one imagines he’s pretty disappointed with the profession. After all, journalists and writers are not known for their piety, to put it mildly. Saving Calvinists from perdition no longer moves us to dip our pens.

“Buzzkill, Francis!” is my new “Settle down, Francis.” I do feel a bit sorry for the writer, however – in his rush to smirk, he’s overlooked Francis’s perceptive genius: quarrels, envyings, slanders and indiscreet tendencies on the dance floor form the basis for a great many of today’s more popular poems, the kind that show up on the radio.

Quarrels? Check 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”

When my joint get to pumping in the club, it’s on
I wink my eye at your chick, if she smiles, she gone
If the roof on fire, man, just let it burn
If you talkin’ about money, homie I ain’t concerned
I’mma tell you what Banks told me Cuz, go ahead, switch the style up
If they hate then let them hate and watch the money pile up
Or we can go upside your head with a bottle of bub’

Envyings? The list is endless, since the club seems to be as much about establishing status as anything else, but let’s take this very basic example from Will i. Am’s “Scream & Shout”

Everybody in the club
All eyes on us
All eyes on us
All eyes on us

Slanders? Back to 50 Cent and “Get Out Da Club”

Bitch you think you high class you ain’t worth a third of a nigga
Ya man is gangsta but we ain’t never heard of the nigga

And hoo boy, indiscreet tendencies. I’m gonna use this bit from Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” since it actually mentions sweat, and Francis mentioned the open pores brought on by dancing…

That badonka donk is like a trunk full of bass on an old school Chevy
Seven tray donkey donk
All I need is some vodka and some coke
And watch, she going to get donkey konged
Baby if you’re ready for things to get heavy
I get on the floor and act a fool if you let me
Dale
Don’t believe me just bet me
My name isn’t Keith but I see why you Sweat me
L.A. Miami New York
Say no more get on the floor

The poor devil also seems to misunderstand what it means for a saint to be the patron of this or that profession. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I always thought it had more to do with the excellent execution of the work than the piety of the worker. As long as we still dip our pens in the service of truth, I’m pretty sure Francis has to be pleased.

Still.

JOBE

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Hey, weren’t we going to do a Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub on that one book we published? Because the Hren is singing about it over at The Fine Delight:

In his “Address to Artists,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that “an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy ‘shock,’ it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum—it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it ‘reawakens’ him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft.” Notice that, for Pope Emeritus Benedict, art is not intrinsically evangelical or doctrinal. Contrarily, for many “Catholic Arts” means “Art as Apologetics.” If a piece of fiction is not Newman’s Apologia (which is of course a great work when measured by its own aims), it cannot be called Catholic fiction. These are the folks for whom even the writings of Flannery O’Connor might not be fit for the Catholic curriculum. I wondered if perhaps Dana Gioia had simply not read Bird’s Nest in Your Hair, a brilliant novel by Brian Jobe, who is a sort of successor to Walker Percy and whose work may well go toe-to-toe with the novels of Milan Kundera. Of course, Jobe’s deeply Catholic novel revolves around characters caught up in the, how shall we call it, adult film industry, and the prose is not puritanical. And so, for many Bird’s Nest in Your Hair is average postmodern pagan fare. But Gioia even notes Anthony Burgess as a “Catholic Writer,” and if Burgess makes the cut, so does Brian Jobe.

Mah!

Pope Francis on the cover of The Rolling Stone

. . .

Wauck, who does not seem all that conservative for a member of Opus Dei – at one point, he asks excitedly if I’ve read Eminent Hipsters, the new memoir by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan – nonetheless downplays the pope’s call for a truce in the culture wars. “I certainly have no problem at all with anything the pope says,” he tells me. “I do think there has been a bit of selective reading. People are emphasizing certain things and forgetting other things that he also said.” For instance, Wauck points out that the pope often speaks about the devil, “much more than I ever remember Benedict doing.” Likewise, he notes that Francis’ comments about the church’s obsession with gay marriage and abortion did not propose any real doctrinal changes. “The pope never said those issues weren’t important,” Wauck says. “He said that when we talk about these things, we have to talk about them in a context. And who would disagree with that? So when people are trying to figure out what kind of guy is this, you have to hear all the bells, not just the ones that sound like, ‘Oh, he’s going to change everything.'”

This is a common retort among conservative Catholics about Pope Francis: You guys in the secular liberal media just aren’t listening. Santorum has insisted the pope’s comments on gays and abortion were taken out of context. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a conservative who had made a number of papal long lists in March, also wasted no time in translating Francis’ message, telling CBS This Morning, “Pope Francis would be the first to say, ‘My job isn’t to change church teaching. My job is to present it as clearly as possible. . . . While certain acts may be wrong . . . we will always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.'”

While much of this sounds like wishful thinking, they also have a point: The pope’s tonal changes don’t necessarily signal a wild swing from tradition. Francis has ruled out the ordination of women, for example, and he still considers abortion an evil. But those obsessed with contextualizing Francis would do well to take a look at the impromptu press conference he granted last summer to gathered Vaticanisti (members of the Vatican press corps) during the flight back from a trip to Rio. Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told me he’d expected the press conference would go about 20 minutes. It lasted for nearly 90, and ended up including the pope’s famous “Who am I to judge?” response, which is normally the only part of the exchange that’s quoted. But reading the full transcript or, better yet, watching longer excerpts on YouTube helps to convey the true context.

A reporter asks Francis, who is standing at the head of the aisle, about the existence of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican. Francis begins by making a joke, saying he hasn’t yet run into anyone with a special gay identification card. But then his face becomes serious and, gesturing for emphasis, he says it’s important to distinguish between lobbies, which are bad – “A lobby of the greedy, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies!” he says later in the press conference – and individual gay people who are well-intentioned and seeking God. It’s while speaking to the latter point that he makes the “Who am I to judge?” remark, and this part of the video is really worth watching, because, aside from the entirely mind-blowing fact of a supposedly infallible pope asking this question at all, his answer is never really translated properly. What he actually says is, “Mah, who am I to judge?” In Italian, mah is an interjection with no exact English parallel, sort of the verbal equivalent of an emphatic shrug. My dad’s use of mah most often precedes his resignedly pouring another splash of grappa into his coffee. The closest translation I can come up with is “Look, who the hell knows?” If you watch the video, Francis even pinches his fingers together for extra Italian emphasis. Then he flashes a knowing smirk.

Father Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst at the left-leaning National Catholic Reporter, says the arguments about style versus substance when it comes to Pope Francis are missing the point entirely. “In the Catholic Church, style is substance,” Reese says. “We are a church of symbols. That’s what we call the sacrament: symbols that give us grace. These things really matter. So Francis is already changing the church in real ways through his words and symbolic gestures. He could sit in his office, go through canon law and start changing rules and regulations. But that’s not what people want him to do.”

. . .

Pope Francis gathers no moss! Like a lot of ink spilled gushing over our marvelous pope, this lengthy Rolling Stone article — set to hit newsstands this Friday — is astonishingly stupid in places. But I thought the above passage from the middle of the essay approached sanity. Let them gush, I say. Who am I to judge?

NFP Post of the Day, Medieval Penitentials Edition

Feeling Randy?

Source

Triangulation at Its Best Part II

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The first (!) two-time Super Bowl winning coach of JOB’s team talking about the two-time Superbowl team from Webb/Potter/Jobe’s corner of the world in reference to one of if not The Most Painful Super Bowl Loss sustained by Lickona’s team:

“Here’s what impresses me about the Seattle defense,” Parcells says, “and it’s what impresses me about any top quality defense in this league: They keep things very simple. They rely on execution the way any good defensive team we ever had relied on execution. They’re not schematic. They’re not out there to fool you. They’re not one of those teams that’s gonna show up next Sunday and say, ‘OK, we’ve got three or four blitzes you’ve never seen before.’ That’s not who they are.

“It’s why this is such an interesting matchup to me, and just because it’s best offense against the best defense again. If it goes Denver’s way, they’re going to get up early and have that be their way of putting pressure on the defense. Seattle? They’ll just hang around a little bit the way they did against the 49ers, and then try to play the way they want to play.”

UPDATE: But of course, in this game, the gods of football will find a way to even keep greatness humble.

NFP post of the day.

I was going to write one post but I decided against it and now I’m going to write this post instead.

I was at the zoo with Third Daughter and the Lansing Priest, and we were watching the giraffes. One of the female giraffes began to urinate. The male giraffe stooped his head behind her, extended his riotously long and twisty tongue, and used it to catch some of the stream. Then he raised his head and sucked air over the liquid in his mouth, just the way I used to do at wine tastings when I wanted to aerate the sip I had just taken in an effort to release its flavors more fully.

The lady leading the tour that had stopped next to us said that the male giraffe does this in order to monitor the female’s fertility. When she is fertile, the taste of her urine will change, and he will know it is time for love. The tour guide said that the male keeps a very close watch over this.

Anecdote of the Dunk

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Triangulation at Its Best…

 

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In an outtake from the recent Salinger biodoc.

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And, in unrelated news yet to happen, there’s this…

JOB [To Interviewer]: “So, you better talk to Jonathan Potter about this, but it’s a great story. The way he tells it,  or at least how he told it to me, Matthew Lickona was just beginning to get his life back in order, right? He was recently out of debt and was returning from some bigwig marketing meeting at the prosthetics company he was working for. Anyway, he decides he’s going to take a cross country trip by train – not bad, right? See a little bit of America’s ass side, spend some time knocking back a few in the dining car, snooze to the clickity-clackity rhythm of it all… Well, anyway, so he’s sitting there, America’s backyards and back alleys racing past his window in a cartoon blur. Meanwhile, unknown to Matthew, Angelico is seated two seats behind him. And so at some point during the trip, the train is about to take one of these God-sized mountain tunnels – it’s out in the middle of Utah or Colorado or something – and it just so happens that who? Right! Dorian Speed is walking up the aisle to the smoking car – she smoked in those days, Camel filterless if I recall – I remember because she started a three-pack-a-day habit soon after the giraffonet replaced the internet and she was having such a hard time transitioning – at any rate, Angelico thrusts his foot into the aisle because he’s got this cramp in his calf, see? He just made this big sell to Icon Productions for his client – but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself – anyway, so he puts his leg out like he’s going to kick a door in and Dorian, tripping on his leg, stumbles forward – but just then Jonathan Webb is walking down the aisle in the other direction, having just finished in the smoking car a Romeo y Julieta – a Churchill I think it was – you know, he could afford them in those days, what with the movie deals he was getting for the Death Fables and all – and he lunges to catch Dorian, but she meanwhile is putting her hand out to save herself from falling flat on her face, and in the process grabs Brian Jobe, who is also on the train – a seat behind and diagonal from Matthew – unbelievable, right? I thought so too! – so she grabs Brian Jobe by his black mock turtleneck – this was during his black period, the whole Propertius affair was still a fresh wound at that point – and she yanks him into the aisle as she’s falling and Webb accidentally grabs for the emergency brake – except, you know, it wasn’t accidental? Because just then Webb sees Matthew at the same time that Matthew spots Webb. Their eyes lock and for one furious moment – well, think crossing streams and Ghostbusters and marshmallow bits everywhere! Well, at the very least, fireworks, hello! So Matthew stands up and is about to punch Webb in his gob – because, you know, poor Matthew is still sore about Webb’s refusal to testify in the Gibson suit – but then Angelico, still rubbing his calf, sees Matthew and unaware of Matthew’s ire tries to get his attention by throwing a copy of Groundwork at him – which someone told me he’d found in the WalMart remainder pile – that’s where I find them, anyway – but anyway, the story – so instead, right? Angelico hits Webb with the book – his own client and he hits him with the book -and right between the eyes – and so, well, anyway, everything sort of went black for a moment as the train passes into the tunnel and…. well, look, I don’t know. This is just what I heard. The only one who was there was Potter. Ask him. He knows the whole story.”

Haiku alert

A cake of ice flowed
Towards Joe on his birthday morn
With forty-five flames.

Birthday alert

Once there was a poet named JOB
Whose lines would have wound round the globe
If laid end to end,
Fingered and penned
And cascading down from his lobe.

JOB's Lobes

Selfie alert

IMG_20140118_141449Taken in the extremely reflective stainless steel surface of the men’s room stall at the J. Paul Getty Center.

Ripatrazone alert

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Over at The Millions, Mr. Fine Delight has a consideration of Andre Dubus:

The two elements of Dubus’s work and life that stifle most critics are his form and function; short fiction and Catholicism, respectively. The Jesuit literary critic Patrick Samway knows how to deal with those topics, as did Vivian Gornick, whose 1990 essay “Tenderhearted Men: Lonesome, Sad and Blue” remains one of the best treatments of Dubus. When she writes that his “work describes with transparency a condition of life it seems, almost self-consciously, to resist making sense of,” she recognizes the almost rubber tendency of Dubus’s fiction. His characters are trapped in worlds timed by their immediate needs: “they drink, they smoke, they make love: without a stop.” Because “sexual love is entirely instrumental,” relationships fail again and again. Marriage falls into adultery, adultery into loneliness, and then the cycle repeats. His characters “remain devoted to the fantasy.” Gornick’s essay considers Dubus after examining Raymond Carver and Richard Ford, and she concludes that Dubus’s Catholicism helps create the most layered fiction: “damnation mesmerizes him.” For Carver and Ford, there is only the “hard-boiled self-protection” of men. Dubus shares Flannery O’Connor’s fear of God. His characters still sin, but they look over their shoulders, they go to confession, they weep for their souls. Jonathan Mahler’s otherwise sharp essay, “The Transformation of Andre Dubus,” falters on his Catholicism, wondering if his devotional moments in essays “can be alienating” to the “secular reader.” In his introduction to Dubus’s essay collection, Broken Vessels, fellow Catholic Tobias Wolff explains: “[For Dubus], the quotidian and the spiritual don’t exist on different planes, but infuse each other. His is an unapologetically sacramental vision of life in which ordinary things participate in the miraculous, the miraculous in ordinary things. He believes in God, and talks to Him, and doesn’t mince words.” This belief operated in the real, tangible world, where the sacred and profane coexist, as in the story “Sorrowful Mysteries,” where the main character’s girlfriend is introduced in such a manner: “She likes dancing, rhythm and blues, jazz, gin, beer, Pall Malls, peppery food, and passionate kissing, with no fondling. She receives Communion every morning, wears a gold Sacred Heart medal on a gold chain around her neck.” In his essays, Dubus explains that sacraments “soothe our passage” through life. His daily receipt of the Eucharist means “the taste of forgiveness and of love that affirmed, perhaps celebrated, my being alive, my being mortal.” God needed to be brought down to the real, dirty world. Without the “touch” of the Eucharist, “God is a monologue, an idea, a philosophy; he must touch and be touched, the tongue on flesh.”

Mel Gibson alert

mel2Paul Elie:

Gregory Wolfe in a memorable (if unappealing) formulation insists that the current generation of Catholic writers is a “whispering generation.” Which leads me to ask: Whispering why?

The answers usually have something to do with the state of the church or the state of the culture or some such.  But my approach to the issue begins with the conviction that literature is made by individual writers, not by the surrounding culture or the spirit of the age – by individual writers who for whatever reasons are (the religious word is undiminished here) inspired to make written works in some ways rather than others.

I wonder if the “whispering generation” is really a cowering generation – writers who are timid when they ought to be bold.

See also?