Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

E-mail me

Friday, May 30, 2003
Now that I’ve seen both Matrix movies, I’m back at the Stoa, but the Oligarch’s brilliant postings are too much to digest in one sitting.

One point for now: “Le Vrai” does not quite mean “The Truth.” The French for “truth” is vérité. And it’s femine: “La vérité.” “Le vrai" would mean “the true” rather than “truth.” Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but perhaps not.

BTW, “Morpheus” is the Greek god of sleep. You can read about him in the first part of Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, where the dreamer who narrates the story seems a bit obsessed with him.

Persephone, of course, is the goddess of the underworld, and wife of Hades/Pluto. In the myth she releases not the Keymaker, but herself, on a seasonal basis.

Matrix Reloaded -- Councillor Hamann

So Anthony Zerbe ("ZER-bee") was Councillor Hamann. I knew Zerbe back in the day. He was big in the TV scene in L.A. in the late '60s, early '70s; did a lot of one-time spots on certain series that I used to watch; played the malevolent mutant Mathias in The Omega Man, opposite Charlton Heston (link for information only -- don't bother buying it). But most of all, I remember Zerbe as Iago opposite the Othello of James Earl Jones, at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, in '71 or so. In Reloaded, he looks more than thirty years older. But wait -- so do I!

Zerbe in Iago days

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Conspiracy theories

The Left has figured out the Jayson Blair thing: he was a Religious Right plant!! Liberalslant has uncovered the whole seedy affair: Blair belonged to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while in high school, was critical of homosexuality, and attended Jerry Falwell's Liberty University for a whole semester! And not only that:

He was a chronic liar and fast talker and did some sleazy things, which would fit the profile of many religious extremists. When he edited his college newspaper, he hired his girlfriend for an unspecified job and provoked a near-revolt among other newspaper staffers. Then there is the mention above about his treatment of other black journalists.

Could he have been primed as an instrument of the religious right’s drive to penetrate the Times?

Sound open 'n' shut to me!

Oh, wait -- why did he then implode his own career, thus wasting all the intrigue that got him into the Times? Ah, I know: It's because religious conservatives are "chronic liars," so the plot was doomed to fail eventually anyway, so -- no, wait, since those rightist plotters are so diabolically clever, why would they choose a plant who was doomed to fail?

Got it! He was doomed to fail, but that was actually part of the real plot, see, because they only told Blair he was going to be a rightwing plant at the Times when his real role in the plot was to discredit race-driven hiring right before the Supreme Court decides the big Michigan case! It all fits!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I've been temporarily avoiding certain posts and some entire blogs because I haven't/hadn't seen The Matrix yet. Well, this is my week to get Matricized. Saw the first movie last night, thanks to Number One Son's DVD, and will see Reloaded later this week.

Yes, I liked it -- more about it later, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Via Zippygirl.

Laborare est orare. Via Zorak.

Monday, May 26, 2003
Washington Post: Santorum doing just fine back home

Happy birthday, Inge Borkh!

You were the greatest Elektra and Salome of your generation!

You won't remember, but back in 1970 you and I jogged backstage together at the Met after a FIDELIO. You were understudying Rysanek, and my family and I were on our way to back to see Giorgio Tozzi, who had never sung Rocco before that season.

Ad multos annos!

New idea in urban renewal: homosexuality

Via The Daily Torygraph: According to American researcher Prof. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, "British cities and towns must develop "hip" neighbourhoods, a gay-friendly atmosphere and an arts scene if they want to prosper...."

The methodology is buried three quarters of the way through the article: "The research weighed the number of patent applications per head with the number of residents categorised as 'not white British' and the number of services provided for the gay and lesbian community. There is no official data for homosexual populations."

The conclusion follows only if one accepts (1) the number patent applications as a proxy for either creativity or prosperity (it could just be a proxy for geekness), and (2) the post hoc ergo propter hoc notion linking gay populations and creativity.

Cities -- take the Cacciaguida Challenge! Develop artsy institutions, but take no affirmative steps to become more "gay-friendly." If gays then move in, so be it. But what I'm betting is that they aren't necessary for either creativity or prosperity; that they are (in a sense) effect rather than cause.

Sunday, May 25, 2003
Cacciadelia made her First Communion today!


Zenit News Service: Cardinal Castrillon celebrates Tridentine liturgy at Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. (The photograph shows a different Tridentine celebration, but the altar looks not too unlike that of a Roman basilica.)

From the e-mailed version (not the web-based) of Zenit's story:

ROME, MAY 25, 2003 ( For possibly the first time since 1970, a cardinal celebrated a Mass in Rome according to the so-called St. Pius V rite, in Latin and facing east with the congregation.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei," explained on the eve of the Mass that with this gesture, he was responding to the requests of faithful to make use of the indult to celebrate the Mass and so honor John Paul II for his 25 years in the papacy.

"The old Roman rite preserves its right of citizenship in the Church and cannot be considered extinguished," Cardinal Castrillón said Saturday during the sermon, the only part of the Mass not in Latin. The Mass was celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

What "unites the variety of rites is the same faith in the eucharistic mystery," the cardinal said. The St. Pius V rite was used before the liturgical reform introduced by the Second Vatican Council.

The celebrant read a message from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, transmitting the Pope's blessing to those present.

The solemn celebration was attended by five cardinals: Bernard Law, archbishop emeritus of Boston; and William Baum, major penitentiary emeritus; Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; Alfons Maria Stickler, archivist and librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church; and Armand Gaetan Razafindratandra, archbishop emeritus of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Also present was Archbishop Julián Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

Saturday, May 24, 2003
Catholic News Service: "The official discouragement of priests celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica using the pre-Vatican II rite has ended, a Vatican official said."

Mets beat 1st-place Braves on Jeromy (sic) Burnitz grand slam; Shinjo throws to the plate to stop the tying run in the ninth. That's the way to save ballgames, guys: we can grouse about Benitez's string of blown saves, but the relievers need help from the rest of youse.

I could go for something "ratty." What's The Rat got for us today?

Ah-ha -- this picture. Very post-modern, though I can't quite get a handle on why. Something to do with using industrial technology to transplant traditions. The next logical step after Gilbert & Sullivan gave us Major General Stanley renting his ancestors in The Pirates of Penzance. The 19th century defiantly survives the 20th, only to find itself up on casters in the 21st. Now, the question: to replant it "permanently" on Edwards Street, or to take it on a nationwide tour? ("Caution: Oversize Load")

A warm blog-welcome to The Conservative Observer, by "Marcus Tullius Cicero" -- or Tully, as we medievals like to call him. (Tully uses the same template as the Ninomaniac -- unless of course the latter has changed again).

Friday, May 23, 2003
Today at Mommentary: Scrooge noir!

Mets over Phillies, 6-3. They're a whole game out of last place!

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Anyone know what this means?

Tribunal Official Appointed to Commission "Ecclesia Dei"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2003 ( John Paul II appointed major pro-penitentiary Archbishop Luigi De Magistris as a member of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."
Archbishop De Magistris, 77, now heads the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which has jurisdiction over the "internal forum" (questions of conscience), especially in what concerns the granting and use of indulgences.

For continuation, see story here, via Zenit News Agency.

Letterman, yesterday: "We got SARS, mad cow disease, orange alert -- the news is so bad that the New York Times doesn’t have to make it up."

Wesleyan to offer "gender-blind" dorm.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (registration required) reports: "According to a statement submitted to the university by students who lobbied for the option, the gender-blind hall will 'create an environment where student housing is not restricted to traditional limitations of the gender binary ... ideal for students whose gender identification and/or gender expression varies from the standard paradigm.'"

The Marriage Movement (David Blankenhorn et al.) now has a blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Chevron, having bought out Texaco, is now ending Texaco's 63 years of sponsorship of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday matinee broadcasts, after next season.

These broadcasts turned opera in the United States from an exclusively-elite into a both-elite-and-popular art form. Many Met stars of the '60s and later first heard about opera by tuning their wireless to the Texaco broadcast on Saturday afternoons down on the farm in Nebraska or wherever.

In a press release, Chevron spokesperson Patricia Yarrington claimed that Chevron plans "to focus more of our resources directly with the countries and markets where we do business, with an additional emphasis on addressing pressing development needs in those communities." An opera friend comments: "So apparently Chevron doesn't do business in the United States? That will be news to several gas stations near my house. Or did the incoherent Ms.Yarrington mean that Chevron doesn't do business with opera lovers?"

Guess so -- starting today.

Met GM Joe Volpe is confident he can find a new sponsor. In the meantime, Chevron's comment address is

And by the way, in case you just happen to be my revered Business Associations prof from law school, who taught me all about how Law-and-Economics proves that corporate philanthropy is an abuse of shareholders' trust -- please, just for today, go stuff it. This is an opera thing -- you wouldn't understand.

Some opera obits

Otto Edelmann, RIP. This Viennese bass-baritone was equally noted for his portrayals of R. Strauss's oafish Baron Ochs, and two noble Wagner characters: the poetic cobbler Hans Sachs, and Wotan - war-father and king of the gods.

Others losses in recent months: Fedora Barbieri, brazen dramatic mezzo of the '50s, and Nadine Conner, limpid-toned lyric soprano of the same era. To me, Barbieri was always what Verdi's crazed gypsy Azucena is all about. I saw her once onstage as Dame Quickly in Verdi's FALSTAFF. I never saw Conner onstage, but on recordings she was my very first Susanna in Mozart's MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, and is the standard by whom other Susannas are judged.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Latin on the move: further updates

An English priest -- Father Andrew Southwell, a Benedictine monk based at St Bede's church in Clapham Park, south London -- will offer Mass in the Tridentine Rite at St. Peter's as part of a Latin Mass Society pilgrimage later this week.

Meanwhile, the Vatican press has brought out a new Latin dictionary that gives Latin terms for all kinds of modern words.

Why there hasn't been much baseball on this blog so far this season

It's because the Mets aren't doing too well. They are, however, out of last place for the time being, have nosed a half-game out in front of the Florida Marlins.

Monday, May 19, 2003
Follow-up to the wise Uwe's UPI story

Catholic News Service: "People want fidelity at Mass, not novelty, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican's top liturgy official, said at an international liturgy forum in Washington May 16." Cardinal Arinze, who hails from Nigeria, was recently promoted to "top liturgy" post, and is also considered papabile.

Cardinal Arinze

Note that the linked CNS newswheel also mentions Cardinal Castrillon's upcoming Tridentine Mass at Sta. Maria Maggiore.

New York Times on a new source of 20-or-30-something angst: "Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It". Question is, are the interviews real? This is the New York Times, after all....

Friday, May 16, 2003
The story about a coming crackdown on liturgical abuses and further revival of the Tridentine rite has now made it to UPI.

CNN: "Gerald Ford Hospitalized After Dizzy Spell". OK, but why did it take them 27 years?


"Don't call me 'Germ'!!"
-- Blondie, "Screaming Skin"


Thursday, May 15, 2003
Thanks for stopping by, but today, don't read me -- we're debating NFP over at E-Pression! C'mon!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
A quiz on which Ivy League college you belong at. Via The Rat.

Funny -- I did this quiz twice. The first time, I answered as "honestly" as I could, albeit with a mixture of my present perspectives and those that I can remember entertaining at age 17. The answer came back -- Penn. The second time, I did my best to give what I thought the quiz-writing people would consider to be the "Yalest" answers -- and I nailed it! Anyway, Yale was the one I belong(ed) at, though I doubt the quiz-writers know why.

The return of the Oligarch, plus more Tridentine stuff

O.O. is blogging again, and making up for lost time. Visit him for this update from ace Vatican reporter Robert Moynihan on Tridentine Mass news. (I knew Bob in grad school, btw.)

Speaking of the old Mass, there's an empirically verified tendency for those who hanker after it to go schismatic. No doubt this will cease to be the case as the old liturgy becomes more widely available, but in the meantime it's a problem. It's also something I don't understand, since for me, learning and liking the Tridentine rite has actually helped me appreciate the "Novus Ordo" rite more as well, because I can see how their structures are not too dissimilar.

In fact, a few months ago I drew up this handy chart, which I now share with readers. For each pairing, the first term is the one used in the Tridentine rite, the second is the equivalent in the Mass of Paul VI. This is my own educated-guesswork, btw, so if you spot errors in it, please comment.

Introit = Entrance antiphon

Collect = Opening prayer

Epistle = First reading

Gradual = Responsorial psalm

Gospel = Gospel

Secret = Prayer over the gifts (Actually "gifts" is ICEL's term; the word is "oblata," which should be translated "offerings".)

Canon = Eucharistic prayer

Communion = Communion antiphon

Postcommunion = Prayer after communion

New blogger Alexander the Great is who I thought he is. Welcome -- and remember: En arche en ho Blogos!

Today is the feast of St. Matthias, patron of contested elections. Actually that's my title for him, not necessarily the Church's. But read the key text -- Acts 1:20-26.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
The Washington Times reports here that North Korea's military fired a laser in March at two U.S. Army helicopters patrolling the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in what U.S. officials call a provocative action....Two Apache attack helicopters were illuminated by lasers in early March by a weapon that had the characteristics of a Chinese laser gun, an indication that North Korea has deployed a new and potentially lethal weapon.

You goddesses out there -- and you know who you are -- take this quiz to find out which goddess you are. Via "bloggeuse" Kathy the Carmelite.

Monday, May 12, 2003
Ananova: Orchestra undergoes physiotherapy to play six-hour operas. As we move into a period of 150th anniversaries of the world premieres of Wagner's operas, doctors in Germany think orchestra members need p.t. in order to play them.

Hey, Herr Doktors, you won't read about it in the Neue Allgemeine Zeitschrft fur Medikalischmusikalischeforschung und Generalwissenschaftkookiness, or whatever, but the custom is to change first-desk players in the Meister's longer operas: after Act I of GOTTERDAMMERUNG and PARSIFAL, after Act II of WALKURE, SIEGFRIED, TRISTAN, and MEISTERSINGER.

Washington Post last Friday: Al Qaeda Planning New Attack on U.S., Member Says: "Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda has reorganized and is planning an operation against the United States similar to the September 11 attacks, a member of the Islamic militant group has told an Arabic magazine" -- a magazine owned by the Saudis, incidentally.

Saturday, May 10, 2003
Welcome, Alexander!

Awesome! A mysterious but friendly stranger has appeared in Blogistan! He's a Yalie, a monarchist, and I think I know who he is. Pleonexia, anyone? In any case, visit his blog, The Gordian Knot.

Friday, May 09, 2003
If I had made this up for an exam fact-pattern, I'd have said "Naaa" and deleted it. Hat-tip to The Rat.

Elinor writes here about the 'Guidas watching The Big Sleep.

Cacciadelia -- a good mimic, just like the character she's named after -- can say "You're cute" just the way Martha Vickers does, but Elinor won't let her.

The Chickpea Eater files this battle-front report on the dizzying confusion swirling in the mind of today's average Catholic high school student on issues of sexual morality.

Thursday, May 08, 2003
PayPal to stop handling payments for "adult-themed" items. A rare piece of good news on the culture-war front. Perhaps one should add, a rare alignment between The Right Thing and good business: it seems buyers and sellers in this line are just not as reliable as other PayPal customers.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Tridentine stirrings

This is beyond the rumor stage now. The Holy Father may be planning a major step forward in the re-mainstreaming of the Tridentine liturgy. The effect will be, I hope, not only to make it more widely available, but also to make it less the "property" of schismatics, quasi-schismatics, and soft-on-schismatics.

Here is an article from the Catholic Herald (UK) pointing out that:

- a Tridentine Mass will be celebrated at Santa Maria Maggiore on May 24;

- the Holy Father has already issued an order allowing any priest with an appropriate indult (presumably from his home bishop) to offer the Tridentine liturgy in St. Peter's; and

- a "universal celebret" -- a license to every priest to use the old liturgy without needing separate permission -- may be in the offing.

See also this story from The Times (London). Why are the Brits following this story more closely than Americans? A friend offers this interesting theory:

It is my understanding that that Latin Mass population as a percentage of all Catholics is much greater in England than in the US. In fact, the attachment to the Old Rite was so great that the Church in England was given a special indult by Paul VI in 1971 (it applied to dioceses in both England and Wales) for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass....

Interestingly, the British petition for the indult in 1971 was widely supported by cultural figures in England at the time, thousands of signatories were not even Catholic. I also suspect that the strong attachment of the English faithful to the Latin Mass has something to do with the historical memory of an earlier "liturgical reform" in English history, which also sought to have the liturgy in the vernacular, free standing altars, priests facing the people, and a general simplification of rites. Many an English martyr shed his blood defending the Mass of Trent (and unity with the Holy See!) in the 16th and 17th centuries, and while the liturgical reforms of the 1960's and 70's were by no means the same, the similarities are hard to miss.

Provided the expression "by no means the same" implies a recognition that one of the things being compared (the liturgy of Paul VI) is the Mass, and the other (the Anglican liturgy) is not, then I agree.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Finished this just recently. First off, it's an excellent thing when an academic steps back from his own discipline to examine its own history and practitioners. This is one of the (few) areas in which we in law are somewhat congratulable: histories of scholarship in field x are a not-infrequent feature in law reviews. But medievalists as a general rule are too busy writing about the Middle Ages to write about medievalists.

Norman Cantor, professor at NYU and former student of Joseph Strayer and Sir Richard Southern, deserves praise for stepping up to this task, and for doing so in a way that gives the reader both a sense of the personalities and a sense of the issues, making the book a good brush-up text on certain areas of medieval history (notably Norman government) as well as a sketchbook of great 20th century medievalists.

Prof. Cantor's convictions about the world are a long way from those represented by this blog, and they color his text in numerous ways. For instance, there appears to exist in the Cantorian universe a shadowy force known only as "Rome," consisting of men with nothing better to do than to "push around" Catholic scholars. Though one may safely assume that "Rome" means the Holy See, especially considered in its role as guardian of Catholic orthodoxy, the ubiquitous term "push around" is never defined, though it is alleged to have happened to numerous Catholic scholars who failed to "idealize" the Catholic Middle Ages.

When, near the end, Prof. Cantor confidently predicts that "traditional Catholicism," "as exemplified by Cardinal O'Connor," is doomed to dwindle into an irrelevant sect of "Old Believers" (alluding to a self-immolating sect in late 17th century Russian Orthodoxy -- cf. Mussorgsky's KHOVANSHCHINA), one realizes that this book is to be valued more for its recollections of the (many) medievalists the author has known than for it substantive judgments.

That said, the many sections of great value in this book include:

F.W. Maitland: A history-minded friend just finishing up at Yale Law School tells me that Maitland's late-19th century History of English Law (nominally the work of "Pollack and Maitland," and so catalogued, but in actuality almost entirely by Maitland) has endured revisionism longer than any comparable work of historical writing, so I suppose Maitland deserves the praise Cantor bestows on him for pioneering the "functional" approach to legal history. Since this approach is contrasted with a sort of Victorian-progressive organicist approach -- every episode in English legal history as an inevitable step towards the palpable perfection that we today, in 1890, enjoy -- I suppose it is indeed an improvement.

Dom David Knowles, OSB: This turbulent monk did indeed have a colorful career. As Cantor would have it, it was Fr. Knowles's reputation as a leading historian that prevented "Rome" from "pushing him around" when he took up residence with a female psychiatrist for whom he said Mass every day. I recently peeked into Knowles's Evolution of Medieval Thought, and found his treatment of nominalism to be overly-generous and his estimate of Aquinas's achievement too low. (Also, did Aquinas ever endorse Aristotle's view on the eternity of matter? I didn't think so, but Knowles says he did. What's up with that?)

The Wilsonian medievalists: How can medievalists take their bearings from a 20th century American progressive president? Easy: by identifying 20th century big government with the political achievement of the medieval Normans, first in Normandy and then in England. William the Conqueror and Henry II become the medieval Wilson and FDR, expanding the state and providing lots of jobs for eager university graduates. The Wilsonian medievalists par excellence are Charles Haskins (founder ot the Medieval Academy of America) and Joseph R. Strayer, whose slim, quick-reading Medieval Origins of the Modern State has convinced several generations of undergraduates that welfare liberalism developed organically out of the days when knights were bold.

Cantor recognizes the weaknesses of Wilsonian medievalism: that it turns medieval leaders into rational organizers and undervalues the reality of "the spiritual" in medieval life.

Cantor also includes a remarkably admiring chapter (given where he's coming from) on "the Oxford fantasists" -- primarily Lewis and Tolkien. Both are portrayed as erudite men who believed the modern world could benefit from reengagement with certain lost medieval values, and who pursued that reengagement in both their scholarship and their fiction -- almost entirely the latter in Tolkien's case, as his scholarly output was limited, in the end, to rediscovering PEARL and translating both this poem and SIR GAWAIN. (If anyone knows that this understates Tolkien's scholarly productivity, please write in and clarify.)

Geistesgeschichte and cultural history: Not only Lewis and Tolkien, but also Geistesgeschichte (spiritual history) practitioners such as Ernst Kantorowicz, and cultural unifiers such as Ernst Curtius, sought to admonish modernity by reference to the Middle Ages, and receive appreciative chapters from Cantor.

Worthwhile, with cautions.


There's no excuse for the delay, but Gospelminefield, by Kathy the Carmelite, is finally on my blogroll. Welcome; go visit her.

Friday, May 02, 2003
No, try again

Last night, Cacciadelia (age 8) was reading to me about Moses from a book called Brave Believers. Eventually we got to the part about the various nations that the Israelites were to conquer. Much low comedy, unintended and (mercifully) unnoticed, ensued over 'Delia's efforts to pronounce "Hittites."

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Richard Cohen's Washington Post column today -- latest variation on the "only good Catholic is a bad Catholic" argument (re Santorum).

Aussie shiraz -- great alternative to French syrah and other Rhone wines.