Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on Kickstarter!

Quin Finnegan on Rediscovering Pokémon

Yikes! It’s tough reading all that Heidegger when nefarious creatures like this show up in your living room …
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But having ably disposed of “Gastly”, he’s now taking the offensive—hunting for more of these hobgoblins born of technology and our ever-shrinking minds. IMG_0896

And taking in an architecture lesson or two along the way.
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Kevin Drum on Assisted Suicide

It would be unfair to call this “banging on”, but Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has written a very sad story backed up with all sorts of facts and figures, as well as charts to help marshal those facts and figures as a buttress for his argument in favor of assisted suicide.

Daniel Payne (I presume that last name is pronounced just like the word “pain”, with whatever association you’d care to make) has written a reply without as many facts or figures, let alone as much emotional punch, but with a whole lot of sound reasoning. Here’s a bolus:

It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones.
It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones who would rather just get the whole thing over with and move on.

I will pray for Drum, and you should, too. Pray his cancer disappears and he lives to be a grumpy, curmudgeonly old liberal geezer still talking nonsense about gun control and other progressive ballyhoos.

If his cancer should return, however, I pray he does not take the easier way out. I pray he gives his wife and his loved ones a final, priceless, and irreplaceable gift, a gift of himself that only he can give: the gift of needing their love, their attention, and their full and unconditional care in the twilight moments of his precious life.

Walter Isaacson on Walker Percy’s Theory of Hurricanes

In yesterday’s issue:

Walker Percy had a theory about hurricanes. “Though science taught that good environments were better than bad environments, it appeared to him that the opposite was the case,” he wrote of Will Barrett, the semi-autobiographical title character of his second novel, “The Last Gentleman.” “Take hurricanes, for example, certainly a bad environment if ever there was one. It was his impression that not just he but other people felt better in hurricanes.”

Percy was a medical doctor who didn’t practice and a Catholic who did, which equipped him to embark on a search for how we mortals fit into the cosmos. Our reaction to hurricanes was a clue, he believed, which is why leading up to the 10th anniversary of Katrina, it’s worth taking note not only of his classic first novel, “The Moviegoer,” but also of his theory of hurricanes as developed in “The Last Gentleman,” “Lancelot” and some of his essays.

Percy lived on the Bogue Falaya, a lazy, ­bayou-like river across Lake Pontchartrain from my hometown, New Orleans. He was a kindly gentleman whose face knew despair but whose eyes often smiled. With his wry philosophical depth and lightly worn grace, he was acutely aware of his alienation from the everyday world, but he could be an engaged companion when sitting on his porch sipping bourbon or holding court with aspiring writers at a lakefront seafood joint named Bechac’s. “My ideal is Thomas More, an English Catholic . . . who wore his faith with grace, merriment and a certain wryness,” he once said. That describes Percy well.

Indeed it does. Thank you, Walter

But will it also be true of earthquakes, when the really big one comes?

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Thus Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Along with a few Beethoven symphonies, Handel’s Wassermusik and Messiah, and Pachabel’s Canon in D, Zarathustra is one of the most well known pieces of music ever written. So thank you, Stanley Kubrick, because it really is worth knowing, and by “knowing”, I mean the whole thing. The sunrise is awesome and beautiful, but it’s worth listening all the way to convalescense and night wandering. And spiritually speaking, it’s worth hearing Wagnerian exvess (Strauss is counted among the greatest conductors of Wagner who ever lived) brought to heel by Nietzschean megolamania (Strauss obviously a fan of the philosopher), and thus closing a chapter in the history of music, or simply history, period, in which a majority of Germans were drunk and distracted enough to immolate as many Jews as they could—Jews, the people who, spititually speaking, made the whole European project possible.

Good thing we’ve moved beyond all that, right?

Listen, and feel triumphant.

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

See also: Eumir Deodato’s funky electronic version from 1972

Fiction Submission

The following story was submitted to me in hopes of having more work published by Korrektiv Press. I explained that we really are a boutique publishing house, an elite group of writers catering to an even more elite group of readers (alas, you read that correctly), and that it would take some time—not to mention a long, hard look by our editorial staff—before his stuff ever saw it through to print. The fellow responded that this was just fine—suited him to a t, in fact, since he was looking for as much feedback as possible. To which I thought, well, why don’t we just post it to the blog, opening up his work to whatever commentary our good readers choose to provide. So … Have at it, folks.

Debita Nostra

Sedately, a hand as though Michelangelo’s Adam’s stretched toward the bulletproof window, outside of which sprung April’s sweet shoots, this man’s hand anticipating no divine spark, reaching instead for infinite space. Garrett stared there, almost praying in spite of it all, sing in me muse of many harried years, I am a man unskilled in the ways of contenting, lax index finger then firming to flick an ant—exiled or escaped from the anthill’s very brotherhood—not utterly destroying it, but doing a crippling work on the hind legs. Dominion over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Should tell someone here. Insecticide. Black dots distracting work that could be done. Contrary to all efficiency and decency. Not that he cared but they would wouldn’t they. Black dots better than black plague, better than the oriental rat flea that gorged on blood and spread it across Europa, eliminating at least one hundred million in seven years, 1353-1346, as though yesterday, danse macabre, dance my little wounded ant, skeletal epitome of eternal mortality, set us dancing again, mon Dieu, Dominus. Dominion. Dominus vobiscum.

Garrett brushed back his black bangs that when hanging ceased just before they reached the eyebrows. Covering it. The broad forehead. That’s how God fits the brains in there, Uncle James had said more than once, often upon introducing him from afar but within earshot—and here he is, broad-forehead-big-brained bullox, pressing blood-blanched fingers against the off white keyboard, trying to formulate a response to client ZX3820 and failing, yet carrying on the slow-motion slog against the debt, stacking his hecatomb against the mortal god who sent summons biweekly: $123,000 total, for which reason we would like to offer you the payment plan option of $1,230 per month, which, o man, measured against your Cosmoception wages of $2,500 per month, leaves you $1,270 per month. Forget not the old cafe job that brought in $1,300 per month at best, if tips bespoke the jubilee generosity, that as dictated by that little known book of Leviticus and insisted upon by the prophet Isaiah, for the faint spirit shall become a mantle of praise enunciated by otherworldly unction.

Still failing to settle the right syntax for client ZX3820. Not for lack of sample form letters provided during orientation, but because not a single one fits. Refusing the forms as inadequate. Aristotle refusing Plato’s theory of the forms–if the father of all philosophical footnotes had one single one anyhow. Failed to figure how this world holds order also not only other-world Forms. Some semblance of home here. My father has many dwellings. Not is only in heaven but as it is, otherwise why the comparison? Client ZX3820—you enter the numbers and the computer program inserts a name which you, the staff, are unable to see, privacy—wants foundation. A shade of peach, non-scented, but can get it cheaper at even the convenience store. He heard now-departed father say have your convenience and hang all to not-yet-widowed mother when she suggested they purchase an eighty dollar keychain by which the doors would unlock and lock by your remote finger’s command. Garrett straightened his spine, felt a click or crack at the base of his back, wrote Have your convenience and hang it all as a draft, then deleted it posthaste, else that $2,500 departs like nymphs leaving you in the wasteland again, leaving no address for anyone, The yellow fog of debt that that rubs its back upon the window-panes, collectors licking their tongues into the corners of the everything.

The nymphs are departed,
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;
Departed, have left no addresses
.

Departed, have taken with them the luggage of panic, for if deadened from dull days at work at least there no worried pacings punctuate the evenings as in the elder days, before this big break job, no heart kicks at every door knock as though Loan Co. Himself was on the other side, knocking. Dithyrambic pound with each envelope delivered, even sweepstakes nonsense sometimes looked like loan bills to bloodshot eyes. Taking more hours at the cafe, more coffee cups filled and customers humored over steaming pink salmon, seizing on others’ sick days almost as a parasite and still failing in spite of this to meet monthly payments, readying for default until an entirely oblique conversation with Loan Co. led to a letter that read “ . . . pleased to inform you that your loan has been rescheduled,” which meant, his Uncle James told him over the phone, reduced monthly payments by means of a second loan to help pay off the first which meant increased interest rates but extended repayment schedule so that at least the monthly interest and a bit of the capital balance would be in the hands of the bank every thirty days.

ἀναζωπυρεῖν

is perhaps my favorite Greek verb, meaning as it does “kindle anew”. This has not so much to do with newfangled reading devices as it does the second letter of Paul to Timothy, in one of my favorite passages from scripture:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

That’s 2 Timothy 1:6-7 in the New International Version, which I have here because that’s the way I first memorably read it on a readerboard outside Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church on the corner of 8th and Madison. That’s where I was walking one fine day in 1987 on my way to meet my mom for lunch, when she was working at the Federal Courthouse on Sixth and Madison, across from the Seattle Public Library. If the passage seems somewhat self-serving (as it does to me—now, anyway, which I realize is a perverse way of reading scripture) say a prayer for the twenty-two year old who was trying to find his way even as he would soon so very badly lose it. Even after reading those very words.

I mention all this because it is the festival day for Saints Timothy and Titus. Timothy happens to be the name of my brother, which is another reason that passage stood out for me way back when.

Say a prayer for him as well, while you are at it. And for the fifty year old, too. Happy Feast Day, and God bless!

Game Over!

Well, it was a good run, but the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic is all washed up. Belly-up. This goose is cooked, people, so stick a fork in it.

We may now commence with our feast in Hell. Very soon now.

I’ve been reading John Zmirak again, and forget about this century … it’s now two millenia of Western Christendom in need of saving. In fact, if you read between the lines of this latest article, you’d be forgoven for going away with the impression that all humanity is in need of redemption.

Strike those weasel words, “all humanity” … what’s really at stake here is the fate of the entire universe.

Whew!

Ficciones

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a résumé, a commentary. […] More reasonable, more inept, more indolent [than other authors], I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.

— Jorge Luis Borges, preface to The Garden of Forking Paths, in Ficciones (New York: Grove Press, 1962), 15-16.


 

See also the Cubeland Mystic’s notes for an imaginary movie:

How about a two man movie? It could be called, Matthew, JOB, and Bourbon. You sit out on Matthew’s patio drink and discuss important stuff, but with a twist. The session turns into a discussion about the perfect movie, and then as the screenplay develops amidst shots, your dialogue would be interspersed with the actual scenes from the finished product that you are developing on the fly. It ends with the sun coming up over La Mesa. The last scene of the movie is Mrs. L picking up the empty bottle of bourbon throwing it in the trash, and saying something like “I wish they’d do some real work.” or some such. That’s the whole movie.

Let’s write it, right here in this post.

Cubeland Mystic, ‘Comment 14746’, Godsbody (September 2008; republished in Korrektiv).

Scroll down for the whole megillah.

Introducing “Sex Box”: Coming to a Stereo V Near You

“Once each couple enters the sex box, our experts discuss their initial observations, ranging from what they think is happening inside the box to whether or not the relationship will survive,” read a statement by WE tv. “Immediately upon exiting the sex box, each couple sits down for a heart-to-heart with the expert panelists to discuss what just happened, how they feel, and how they’re planning to overcome their issues.”

Something very important is happening in that box, but we can’t see it…we’ll just talk about it…because it matters. People doing things…to each other…sex things…sexy time things maybe. Then you can talk about it with Dan Savage, who is a sex expert. I would have performance anxiety, personally.  This might be more my style (if you judge by the comments, it might suit millions of other men. Good luck with that feminists)

Awful, yes. But really,  what’s taken so long. Coming soon, “Death Box”.

FYI, this is not to be confused with Dick in a box

 

Keeping the Dog Far Hence: A Lenten Reflection

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By Cecilia O’Brien

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!

-Eliot

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Lent arrives during the most appropriate season in our little patch of the world. Southwest Wisconsin at this time of year is a season of mud, dirty snow, patchy ice, fleeting sun and winds whispering promises of things to come. The days grow longer and the hours a bit slower as we wait, and wait, and wait for signs of spring.

The frozen ground begins to reveal the hidden sins of winter; animal waste, a plethora of bones dragged in by the dog, long lost mittens, buckets and plastic bags, and other sundry items that have fallen from our pockets or have been swept from our cars. It is ugly, the dirty snow, the brown earth, the garbage.

As is the season, so too is the state of our souls. Lent pulls back the blanket of complacency, revealing our imperfections, inconsistencies, and inadequacies. It lays bare the detritus from seasons past. Our souls are scarred with sins of gluttony, pride, selfishness, lust, anger…. The list goes on and on. It too is ugly, the blanket of complacency, the scars, the sins.

And yet hope lies in those winds of promise. Hope for new life, green pastures, gurgling streams, and the warming rays of the sun. Work must be done. The plastic and paper garbage must be secured lest the wind blows them in all directions once again.

The dog does not like to lose her many bones littering the lawn and field. We have tried burying them or tossing them over a distant ravine but she always manages to retrieve them, scattering them about, scars on our landscapes, obstacles in our paths. So the bones and garbage are collected, placed in garbage bags and sent to the county dump and recycling center to be crushed, incinerated, or reformed.

Our sins also have the tendency to make their way back to our soul’s landscape, blocking the way, obscuring the warming rays of the Son. They too must be collected and disposed, leaving our soul exposed to the light of grace.

The confessional is our soul’s county dump. We acknowledge our sins, gather them in a heap, and one by one feed them into the great incinerator of God’s mercy. Our soul’s soil lies exposed, to soak up the gift of grace through the sacraments.

So this Lent, as we wait and wait and wait, for the green of spring and the promise of resurrection, let’s gather up the garbage, the old bones, and dispense ourselves of them in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.