fragments of an attempted writing.
It's come down to this.

Heck, my mom, as ardent a freechurch Prot as you will ever encounter, after telling me that selling real estate isn't the time for religious scruples, picked one up from a Catholic bookstore and buried the little plastic statue in the yard of their former house, and sure enough the house sold faster than they thought it would.  Here's to praying that such graces continue.  
Three versions of my favorite Christmas hymn.

Queen Victoria = Sauron, sort of.

Fascinating. The place where Hobbiton is filmed in New Zealand was once the idyllic home (read the description in the post - quite fetching) of the native Māori peoples, who were decimated by the Sauronic forces of the British Army:

But there is an important difference between the dramas of nineteenth century New Zealand and the dramas of Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit offer audiences an unambiguous battle between the loveable hobbits of the Shire and the alien, almost abstract evil of Sauron. Pakeha readers and viewers can identify easily with Frodo Baggins and his friends, and despise Sauron and his Orcs.
To learn the story of the Waikato War and Peria is, though, a much less comfortable experience. In the story of the Waikato War, the army doing the pillaging and burning is made up not of mindless monsters, but of men acting in the name of the New Zealand state. The place of Sauron is taken by the business and political establishment of Pakeha New Zealand. For politicians, tourism operators, and Pakeha film and book audiences, it is much easier to think about New Zealand as Middle Earth than as a society founded on and consolidated by war.

Out of curiosity, I was looking into the religion of the Māori and prior to this attack the Māori seemed to have been mostly Church of England and Catholic (according to Wiki both the CofE and RCC are still "highly influential" in Māori society today).  There was a church in the village of Peria, but I don't know if it was Anglican or Catholic.  In any event the British soldiers "who drank, burnt, and looted enthusiastically" were doing such to other Christian peoples, not that it matters in terms of the depravity of their actions, but, well, there is no "violent, child sacrificing natives" line of argument to grasp at as a pseudo-defense of bad actions here.  From the 1880s through early 1900s the Presbyterians and Mormons made significant gains among the Māori, though since the 1990s the Māori have been dropping out of the LDS at a rate which has alarmed the LDS. 
I generally try to avoid identity politics quarrels, with the exception of my being quite sympathetic to what we might call 2nd and 1/2 wave feminism, or something like that, and as an old leftist I consider race matters as existing prior to new leftist identity politics trajectories, even if the new left has royally messed up racial politics like it has so many other things [screw victim-hood and its cults - the old left was about fighting back and coherent organizational struggles, not perpetual whining and constant appeals to white guilt and the psychologicalization of the oppressed into quasi-divine impotent victims].

But for a split second I almost thought about getting a subscription to Touchstone again after reading this complete rubbish.  Petit-bourgeois liberalism and its decadent petty "liberations" - sigh, so astoundingly worthless.  Middle class white straight males might veer a bit away from gender normativity in parental roles by being exposed to subcultures wherein gay male parents are present.  Great.  What does that amount to exactly?  Dad changes one more diaper a week and washes dishes once more a week?  Talk about first world problems.  Cuz, like, I mean, totally, like, my mother told me when I was ten years old that I would have to do those thing if I got married.  Wait, not my mother, parent #1, or at least I assume the mother is parent #1, as I met her before I met my father.  And this idea that middle class gay families are going to facilitate the transformation of middle class straight families, such that they will now have an "understanding of sexuality as gift from God" and then de-instrumentalize their own sexualities (because, as we all know, when you think "middle class gay cultures" you naturally think "avoidance of the instumentalization of sex" - first thing that comes to mind, of course), all in the context of the American middle comfort class - identity as commodity - my life the movie in which my sexuality is a tool the Church needs, because everything I do, even with my penis, is, like, meta-narrative in importance.  Uh, yeah.  

Ratzingerian Marxists

"The manipulation of life, originating in the developments of technology and of the violence inherent in the processes of globalization in the absence of a new international order, puts us in the presence of an unprecedented anthropological emergency. This appears to us to be the most serious manifestation and at the same time the deepest root of the crisis of democracy. It sprouts challenges that demand a new alliance between men and women, believers and nonbelievers, religions and politics."

The "Ratzingerian Marxists" charge the left in Italy and the West with having given in to "falsely libertarian cultures, for which there exists no right other than the right of the individual."


Read more here.  I wish the writings of these Ratzingerian Marxists was available in English.

Thanks Daniel Nichols for bringing this to my attention.


I'm going to briefly interrupt my sabbatical today to note the passing of one of America's better poets.  Jack Gilbert died today.

One of my favorites of his poems is this one:

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

My friend James Raines had a fine brief summary of the man:

At 87 years old, the poet Jack Gilbert died today. He often wrote about what it was like to grow up in a working class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Many of his poems express a sense of alienation from the lives of others, even those he desperately loved. He sang his songs for a time, tonight the room is silent.

And the Gilbert poem perhaps most poignant on the day of his death:

Refusing Heaven

The old women in black at early Mass in winter
are a problem for him. 

He could tell by their eyes
they have seen Christ. They make the kernel
of his being and the clarity around it
seem meager, as though he needs girders
to hold up his unusable soul. But he chooses
against the Lord. He will not abandon his life.
Not his childhood, not the ninety-two bridges
across the two rivers of his youth. Nor the mills
along the banks where he became a young man
as he worked. The mills are eaten away, and eaten
again by the sun and its rusting. He needs them
even though they are gone, to measure against.
The silver is worn down to the brass underneath
and is the better for it. He will gauge
by the smell of concrete sidewalks after night rain.
He is like an old ferry dragged on to the shore,
a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams
and joists. Like a wooden ocean out of control.
A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt.


May his refusing heart find a place at Abraham's table.