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.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The upcoming feasts

Christmastime is full of subsidiary feast days, some of which showcase the suffering that is never far away from rejoicing, and indeed was part of the original Christmas. I've already posted stuff about the Sts. Stephen and John. Coming up are:

Dec. 28 -- Feast of the Holy Innocents, anciently called Childermass. (Presumably the origin of the name of the Bellairs character, which apparently has been borrowed by the Jonathan Strange people.) The appropriate song is The Coventry Carol. (Via Eve.) The appropriate opera is BORIS GODUNOV. (The best commercial recording is this one, featuring Martti Talvela as Boris and using Mussorgsky's original orchestration. The second best is this one, with Nicolai Ghiaurov as Boris and Talvela as Brother Pimen, and using Rimsky-Korsakov's pimped-up re-orchestration. Since neither is in print, I'll tentatively recommend this one.)

Dec. 29 -- Feast of St. Thomas Becket. Usually inexcusably overlooked. Obviously the movie is Becket. The play is also Becket, or Murder in the Cathedral. The carol -- there isn't one, so I wrote one. Tune: Good King Wenceslas.

Good King Henry Two got whipped
On the Feast of Becket
Great his heart and eke his tongue
When that he could check it

But one day, said he, "This priest,
Who shall rid me of him?"
Now he's got five Saxon monks
Swinging whips above him.

Dec. 30 -- Feast of the Holy Family. (Usually second Sunday in the octave of Christmas, but moved this year because that would fall on Jan.1.) Your priest will tell you that we don't have to follow St. Paul literally any more. I don't know who your priest is, but he'll say that. If you're playing Homily Bingo, take five points if he uses the word "sexist." "Time-bound" only gets you three points -- but if he uses both, you win.

Jan. 1 -- Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, in the current calendar. In the old calendar, before the clergy filled up with the kind of guys who can't stand the sight of blood, it was the Feast of the Circumcision. One doesn't wish to deny Our Lady another feast day, but I think it was a shame to, um, cut this one. Hee hee, hoo hoo, ergghhhhh. Anyway, use either name. Since I'll be visiting Jewish relatives, I know which one I'll use. (I think the Greco-Yiddish word for the Feast of the Circumcision is Chrisbris.)

Feast of St. John

(El Greco's St. John and the Goblet of Fire??)

Monday, December 26, 2005
Pope Benedict, fashionplate
...[T]hose who know Joseph Ratzinger from his years as head of the Vatican's doctrinal office dismiss any notion of vanity in the new pope's dressing habits.

"He wouldn't know Gucci from Smoochi," said Marjorie Weeke, a former official at the Vatican's Social Communications office....
Former? Why can't we hang on to Vatican spokesman who can talk like that? Wouldn't it be great if cardinals gave that kind of quote?
"He probably donned the cape because it was in the papal closet and would keep him warm on a winter evening," she said of the mozzetta.

....When he came out on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to give his first blessing minutes after his election April 19, an inappropriate black sweater peeked out from under the cuff of his hurriedly donned white cassock. Apparently there was no heating in the Sistine Chapel where the conclave was held, and the new pope might have needed some woolen comfort.
I'll bet it has an embroidered "J" on it and his mum made it.

Feast of St. Stephen: It's more than just "looking out"

Sunday, December 25, 2005
It was windy in western Iraq tonight. You could hear it on the phone when Jonathan Lee called. He's doing well; now living in quarters inside the Dam itself, rather than at the Villa. Access to priests has been a problem; there's a shortage in the military chaplaincies, as elsewhere, and understandably, their first priority is where the heaviest fighting is. Today however (yesterday, Iraq time), a priest from the Navy chaplain corps came to the Haditha Dam for Christmas Mass.

Urbi et orbi: Pope says there are signs of hope in Mideast. Pictures from the Holy Father's Midnight Mass here, thanks to

Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-natured name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, The Wreck of the Deutschland, 34

Saturday, December 24, 2005
Saint Francis and Saint Benedight
Blesse this house from wicked wight;
From the night-mare and the goblin,
That is hight good fellow Robin;
Keep it from all evil spirits,
Fairies, weazles, rats, and ferrets:
From curfew time
To the next prime.

-- one "Cartwright," quoted in Washington Irving's Christmas at Bracebridge Hall

U.S. Monitored Muslim Sites Across Nation for Radiation. Well I should bloody frellin' well hope so.

New opera: Tobias Picker's AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

I've just listened to the Met's broadcast of a new opera that the Met itself commissioned: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, by Tobias Picker, based on the novel by Theodore Dreiser, which was based on a real murder case in 1906. I won't take up Christmas time with a long commentary (the press bumf about "the dark side of the American dream" gets old real fast), but, two points:

1. It's really cool that new operas are being written in the tonal, accessible, grand-orchestral style kept alive by Samuel Barber, Douglas Moore, Robert Ward, and Carlisle Floyd, in defiance of the atonalism and/or minimalism demanded by the critics and academics. (I happen to like the first atonal opera ever produced, Berg's WOZZECK, which the Met will broadcast next Saturday, but what's interesting in one early and highly fitting dramatic setting should never have been allowed to create a new politburo for classical composition.)

2. I haven't read the Dreiser novel, and I'm not sure I can promise to slog through a thousand pages that promise to show me "the dark side of the American dream." But here is one observer who thinks the opera is lame in comparison to the novel because it refuses to take a stance of bitterness towards the hero's Christian upbringing. In fact, in the opera, Clyde goes to his execution repentant and calling on Jesus. If that's not Dreiser's take, all the more reason to prefer Picker's.

Friday, December 23, 2005
A merry gentleman, dismayed

Elsewhere in the Telegraph, we find an unusual defense of public celebration of a confessionally Christian Christmas. Simon Heffer writes: "I rejoice wholeheartedly as an atheist that I live in a Christian culture, and I know that, in that undeniably hypocritical act, I am not alone."

I don't know if this is a piece to be glad about or not. He's right as far as he goes (setting aside his acceptance of the Protestant nature of the English religious establishment, which is secondary to his main point). But I'm leary of the notion that non-Christians can endlessly freeload off the Christian "spirit of Christmas." If I had thought so, I might not have converted.

Daily Telegraph columnist Tom Utley sums up the case against same-sex marriage. Not all will appreciate his rather self-dramatizing repentance on the question of public criticism of gay conduct per se, or the success of the aggressive emotional blackmail by "Desmond," but the pay-off is here:
Now I am going to spoil it all, and risk being frozen out again by Desmond, by repeating my belief that the CPA is an utter nonsense, in the most literal sense of the word, and that gay marriage can only ever be a ludicrous parody of the real thing.

Sexual intercourse has three functions: to make babies, to give physical pleasure and to give us a means of expressing our affection for each other. Only that first purpose should concern the state. The other two are no more the Government's business than Sir Elton's bedroom practices are any business of mine.

Every time I think of the Civil Partnership Act, I think of my two sisters - one of them a single mother - who have shared a house for most of their lives and bring up my niece together. They are expressly forbidden by the CPA from forming a civil partnership, for two reasons: (i) they are siblings; and (ii) they have not the slightest sexual interest in each other.

If Sir Elton dies before his partner, Mr Furnish may now inherit all his property, free of inheritance tax - and all because they fancy the pants off each other. When one of my sisters dies, the other will almost certainly have to sell their house to pay the tax bill. Where is the justice in that - and how does it serve the interests of the state?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Father David Choby: Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Bishop? (Yes: the Diocese of Nashville includes the entire state.) [But see comments.]

Yet another non-monsignor diocesan administrator promoted to the top job. A sign Pope Benedict is looking for proven talent rather than proven clubability? ("Clubability" means suitability for club membership, though Lord knows the other possible meaning occasionally intrudes into the imagination.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
What the well-dressed Pope is wearing: via Greg here, and the Curt Jester here. Re-mainstreaming the traditional liturgy may take a little longer, but Renaissance-era vestments are coming down from the attic and onto the Holy Father almost daily. Go, team!

I suppose this will provoke the usual snarking about Pope Benedict's sartorial punctiliousness. I'm so tired, frankly, of the formula gay = well-dressed, straight = slob. I'm seriously thinking of starting a link section listing my favorite clothing sources and titled "Where the straight guy gets fabulous." Since I'm not a cleric and don't have to weigh the merits of Gammarelli and its competitors, I would probably list J. Press, Brooks Brothers, Jos.A. Bank, L.L.Bean, and Land's End. Links in due course. Suggestions welcome.

Meanwhile, I say to the Holy Father: keep going, and take it all the way -- the Papal Tiara!

EDITED TO ADD: According to Zenit, "camauros date back to the 12th century. They fell into disuse, until the papacy of John XXIII. After that pontificate it fell into disuse again -- until today, to the surprise of observers." And yes, some tourists, and Englishmen, thought it was Santa Claus get-up. And on St. Nicholas/Santa Claus: some history here, Elinor here, and me here.

Monday, December 19, 2005
OK, now to engage a little with Eve's review of the Goblet of Fire movie:
I. What I loved:
The opening. Scary and spooky and wonderful. And we get Barty Crouch Jr. in the very beginning, so the later revelation isn't quite so "...and that came from where?!"
Quite so. The opening of Patrick Doyle's score reminded me of "Mars the Bringer of War" from Holst's The Planets, and it couldn't have been more appropriate. As for putting Barty Jr. in that scene, I read somewhere that they ran this past JKR and she was like, yeah, could've happened. Which could mean, I should've been more clear about that, thank you for correcting my narrative blooper.
Neville. Adorable in every scene. So much love!

In the books, by the way, I cordially loathe Neville. In his scenes with Snape, I have to remind myself in Very Firm Tones that my religion says even morons don't deserve humiliation. (A maxim from which I have frequently benefited.) But in the movies, and most especially GOF, I love him and I see what his fans are talking about.
He grows on one. He starts off as comic relief, and slowly turns out to be much more.
Rita's Quill: I'm only "heh" about Rita herself--fun, but not quite fun enough--but her salacious quill is hilarious. (Oh, and yes, I picked up on her cheek-stroking with Fleur. Rita, you scamp!)
Eve catches that, I catch (in HBP) Slughorn carrying the torch for Lily and rolling out the redhead carpet for Ginny. Gaa, buncha pervs, the lot of us.
Chaos at the Quidditch World Cup: Well done, and very "life in wartime." But we lost the entire political angle of Muggle-baiting, the ethical questions of Levicorpus by Death Eaters vs. Obliviate by Ministry goons....
...and Ton-Tongue Toffee by the Twins. Just "desserts," or Muggle-baiting? Arthur condemns it as the latter, though he can see what Dudley is; yet he has no problem with memory-mod.
2) That's a lot of damage to the school. Is Harry's performance, as shown in the movie, really admirable? The other champions managed not to destroy half the towers and roofs around them.
Well, that we know of. Maybe it was overkill for the groundlings, but nothing a little "reparo" can't fix.
III. Strong dislike:
Beauxbatons: What'n Ah say What'n was up with their idiotic swoony entrance?
Butt'n Ah say butt. Those skirts didn't get that way by shrinkin' in the wash. Or if you mean the little dovecote dance move -- eh, just pageantry, like the once-inevitable ballet in act II of an opera. This is a more operatic movie than the first three; more on this in a mo'.
Cute Krum. In the book, he's described as sallow-skinned, hook-nosed, and generally Snapeish. I really hope this description foreshadows an interesting Krum character arc. Regardless, I would have loved another Snapey heartthrob.
Cute? Attractive, I would guess (right, Lauren?), but not without menace (still with me, Lauren?). Anyway, whatever his past or future, Krum weighs in as a nice boy in this novel/movie. I say that because no one with death-eating proclivities would have made himself as vulnerable to a (supposed) male rival as Krum does in the "Harry, a vort" scene in the book.
More importantly, we get no sense of why Hermione gives him the time of day. In the book, he was bookish (I think? at least he spent lots of time in the library, though I can't remember if that was merely a ploy to woo Hermione--even so, good on him for recognizing this aspect of her character) and seemed somewhat distant from a Durmstrang that came across as manipulative and unpleasant. In the movie, it's all very He Saw Her Across A Crowded Room; which... ick.
Good point. The viewer who hasn't read the book would assume she was just bowled over by being asked to the Ball by the BMOC. And she's not that type -- or is she?

"'You only like him because he's handsome,' said Ron scathingly.
"'Excuse me, I don't like people just because they're handsome,' said Hermione indignantly.
Ron gave a loud false cough, which sounded oddly like 'Lockhart!'."

-- GOF, "Beauxbatons and Durmstrang"

Shrill Hermione: So I love Hermione in PS/SS, and even in COS and the book of POA. She's believably awful ("You've got dirt, on your nose. Just there. Did you know?") and believably adorable. In the movie of POA she started getting kinda generic action-heroine, which is just not who Hermione is. And in GOF she plays almost the entire movie in Fishwife mode. I didn't sense her love of the boys (especially Ron) and I really missed the text's understanding of her ruthlessness (captive Rita).
Well as a confirmed "heroine addict," it's my view that the Hermione of the GOF movie is no shriller than the Hermione of the book. She has a certain amount to be distressed about: what Mad-Eye is up to with those curses, mother-henning Neville (which she has done since, literally, before we first met her in PS), mediating the Harry-Ron falling-out, and worrying about whether Harry will get killed in the tasks.

Anyway, I can't agree that he's predominantly in Fishwife mode in the movie in which she has her first date, and her first big prom-like event, and so obviously gets in touch with her inner goddess. Emma Watson said of the Yule Ball scene: "I didn't know there that many ways to walk down a flight of stairs." If it was like that for the actress, what must that moment have been like for the character?
Moaning Myrtle: I love Myrtle. She's hilarious and fun, and serves as an effectively spooky guide to the characters' maturation. But in this movie she basically assaults a 14-year-old, and it was just gross. Like, she gives Harry Potter an unwanted lap dance. Seriously icky.
The suggestive line about the bubbles going away was in the book, but Myrtle simpering in the crook of Harry's arm definitely was not. Yeah, ick.
Daniel Radcliffe Can't Cry. Sorry. Loved the setup of that scene--everyone cheering the victory until they realize what's happened--but loathed the execution.
Well, it worked for me. Robbie Coltrane handled very well the business of slowly ceasing to applaud as realization dawns. Also a nice reminder that while Hagrid may be an overgrown child, he's not dumb.
The ending: Anticlimax defined.
No: music-driven. Get the album and listen to the tracks called "Another Year Ends" (really, a funeral hymn for Cedric) and "Hogwart's Hymn" -- not a school march, but a meditation full of echt-English, Elgarian melancholy and grandeur. Very operatic. (I know, Elgar never wrote an opera, but he was about the most operatic symphonist of his time, and The Dream of Gerontius, set to a text by Cardinal Newman, is highly operatic as oratorios go.)

The rest of Eve's points have to do with Snape, and potentially crucial developments in this crucial character that didn't make it into the movie. But that's for future posts -- and not, I think, my next Potter post. That one will be about the Weasleys in light of St. Josemaria Escriva's teachings of the virtues of "large and poor families."

NSA eavesdropping: grow up, everybody. Stop thinking your amours and your recipes and (gasp) your pictures of your grandchildren are all that fascinating to federal agents, some of whom actually get promoted on the basis of crimes solved or prevented. They know more about you from your tax returns than from your e-mails and phone calls.

I'm not saying it's good, I'm just saying it's government in the post-Progressive era. At least the Bush people may have stopped some terrorist acts; all the Clinton people wanted to know about was which Republicans (especially impeachment advocates) were diddling somebody. And the Bush people haven't yet, afawk, pawed through raw FBI files on former Democratic political appointees. Take a deep breath, everybody. Worry about torture, not extendable ears.

Or, if you want some big-government worries, worry about the behavior-modificiation implications of socialized medicine, or about prosecutors who subpoena people who mouth off at them.

Saturday, December 17, 2005
Church appointments:

* Salt Lake City Bishop George Hugh Niederauer replaces Archbishop Levada as Archbishop of San Francisco. The Salt Lake Tribune calls Niederauer "an articulate and sharp-witted advocate whose well-chosen words cut to the heart of a matter."

* Fr. Alexander Sample, Chancellor of the Diocese of Marquette, MI (the "upper peninsula" -- Moosylvania) becomes its Bishop. And not even a monsignor first! No very clear reason why former Bishop James Garland, appointed by JPII in 1992, is retiring a year early. Local paper says: "Recently, Sample was appointed to an investigative team that, in response to the Catholic sex abuse crisis in America, visited seminaries in Detroit and Chicago to screen potential priests." And he evidently likes good pens, so that' s a plus.

* "Msgr. James F. Checchio, a priest of the Diocese of Camden, N.J., has been named rector of the North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome." I don't know anything about Msgr. Checchio, including how he pronounces his name (normal Italian spelling rules would suggest "KEK-yo"), but I do know that Camden Bishop Joseph Galante has a good reputation among the good guys (Richmond Bishop Francis diLorenzo was one of his co-consecrators), and when the bishop is a good guy, his team-members get promoted (just ask Archbishop Chaput).

Anyone else have some 411 on these fellows?

There, that's enough clerical gossip for at least a year -- though whether it'll really be a year until I post some more, we'll have to see.

Broke-Camel's-Back Mountain

There's a Los Angeles Times story about Brokeback Mountain that's being widely reprinted around the MSM, as for instance here in Long Island-based Newsday. Note the, ah, headline: breathlessly hopeful; almost small-"e" evangelical. In its attitude toward the benighted fly-overs, generous hope vies with long experience of those stiff-necked people: maybe this flick will draw a few hardened Christians to the altar-call ("Just A-- I Am"), but more likely Ang Lee will have to shake the dust off his feet and move on.

Meanwhile, whatever the USCCB's movie-rating office has covered itself in over this, it isn't glory. Catch up on that here (Jimmy Akin guest-writing on Mark Shea's blog). One can argue about whether the Bishops' reviewers and their airheaded rating-categories should be changed, but perhaps the larger question is: in the age of the "empowered laity," and with dozens of on-line movie rating services available, why exactly does any of the contents of our collection envelopes go to pay bureaucrats to review movies? This would be a scandal even if those reviewers were reliably Catholic. The only case I can see for the Office of Film and Broadcasting is that it without it, those same people might be doing liturgy.

Friday, December 16, 2005
New York Sun:
Saddam's WMD Moved to Syria, An Israeli Says

By IRA STOLL - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 15, 2005

....The Israeli officer, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, asserted that Saddam spirited his chemical weapons out of the country on the eve of the war. "He transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria," General Yaalon told The New York Sun over dinner in New York on Tuesday night. "No one went to Syria to find it."....

Read the rest. (Hat-tip: Since I have never believed that Saddam didn't have WMDs right up until the invasion (I guess I officially differ from the Bush administration on this), this story surprises me less than it might others.

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Cacciadelia at the podium: "Mom likes the Irish Tenors, but do you know what I would hate? If a bunch of ladies got together to form the Russian Sopranos. Nzgghhhh!"

I am your blowback: a Wall St. Journal reporter becomes a Marine officer. Much, much to think about here. Excerpts:
....A year ago, I was at my sister's house using her husband's laptop when I came across a video of an American in Iraq being beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The details are beyond description here; let's just say it was obscene. At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't. We often talk about how our policies are radicalizing young men in the Middle East to become our enemies, but rarely do we talk about how their actions are radicalizing us. In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.

....The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"

Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.

He said if I wanted a shot at this I'd have to ace the physical fitness test, where a perfect score consisted of 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in two minutes, and a three-mile run in 18 minutes. Essentially he was telling me to pack it in and go home. After assuring him I didn't have a criminal record or any tattoos, either of which would have required yet another waiver (my age [31] already required the first), I took an application....

I made a quick trip back to New York in April to take a preliminary physical fitness test with the recruitment officer at the USS Intrepid. By then I could do 13 pull-ups, all my crunches, and a three-mile run along the West Side Highway in a little under 21 minutes, all in all a mediocre performance that was barely passable. When I was done, the officer told me to wipe the foam off my mouth, but I did him one better and puked all over the tarmac. He liked that a lot. That's when we both knew I was going for it.

Friends ask if I worry about going from a life of independent thought and action to a life of hierarchy and teamwork. At the moment, I find that appealing because it means being part of something bigger than I am. As for how different it's going to be, that, too, has its appeal because it's the opposite of what I've been doing up to now. Why should I do something that's a "natural fit" with what I already do? Why shouldn't I try to expand myself?

In a way, I see the Marines as a microcosm of America at its best. Their focus isn't on weapons and tactics, but on leadership. That's the whole point of the Marines. They care about each other in good times and bad, they've always had to fight for their existence....
Read the whole thing.

Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy -- the "M-word" isn't Mormon, it 's Massachusetts. Nonetheless, our English-speaking-world brethren at The Times -- you know, the one in London, the The Times -- ask whether "America is ready to elect a Mormon as its president."

It's not clear what the spin is: that the Yanks are so backwards that their red-staters (outside of Utah, of course) will never elect someone from a funky religion? Or that our blue-staters are so terrified that they'll secede and return to the mother country if Mitt is elected? (The latter is more likely, I'd say.)

Now, me, I'm a Brownback man for the time being. But Mitt gave a heck of a good audition speech at the Federalist Society convention last month, and he's worth taking a look at.

The Times winds up with:
Mr Romney can also take encouragement from the experience of his Mormon father, George Romney, who was Governor of Michigan. His 1968 presidential bid imploded after he said that he had been “brainwashed” into supporting the Vietnam War. “But until then,” Steve Hess, of the Brookings Institution, said, “there was no question he could have been elected.”
Actually, there is the gravest question. The elder Romney was not born on American soil (his folks were travelling in Mexico at the time of his birth, as I recall). He was therefore ineligible to be President (U.S. Const., Art. II, Sec. 1, clause 5), just as Ahnuld is, and a constitutional crisis would have loomed if he hadn't dropped out of the race. (Finding a plaintiff with standing to bring the suit would have been dicey, but I daresay any primary opponent could have sought an injunction barring George Romney from the ballot. Whether the courts would or should have dismissed this as a non-justiciable "political question" is another matter. Sometimes the American people just have to enforce their own Constitution.)

Oi, did this ever need to be said! British Orthodox-Jewish scholar Levi Sokolic, writing in The Jewish Press (hey, that's what these chaps call their newspaper -- I'm not going all E. Michael Jones on you about the media in general!) notes first that support for Israel by conservative Christians appears to be based on deep conviction and not just a passing alliance. Then he goes on:
What is it that many Jews really fear from the perceived power of the Christian Right? They fear for the secular leftist causes, beliefs, practices and values that they espouse and hold dear. But then, Torah Judaism is even stronger in its opposition to what these secular Jews believe and how they define themselves.

....[T]he reason many Jews are reluctant to acknowledge or accept any alliance with conservative Christians — when clearly it is secular liberals who are the greater threat, both immediate and long term — is that such an alliance exposes a major fault line among those who call themselves Jews, a fault line many Jews prefer to pretend does not exist.

Namely, it makes salient the division between secular and Reform Jews on the one hand, and Torah-observant Jews on the other. It reveals to one and all that there is not one Jewish people, but at least two, and that these two peoples are often highly antagonistic to one another, each with a different conception of what “Jewish” means. Each has different interests, and these interests frequently clash.

Life would be so much easier for many Jews if conservative Christians were open, rabid anti-Semites. Unfortunately for such Jews, these are found largely on the Left.
(Hat-tip: Zorak)

Daily Torygraph: Oxford caves in on state selection
By John Clare, Education Editor
(Filed: 15/12/2005)

Oxford colleges are to lose their 800-year-old right to select undergraduates in response to Government pressure to admit more students from state schools and lower social classes.

Instead, admissions will be centralised to encourage applications from comprehensive pupils, who find the present arrangements "confusing and opaque", the university said yesterday.

Pupils will apply to the university, not a specific college, and will be interviewed and selected by the appropriate department, not by their potential tutors.

The university admitted that as a result, colleges will lose autonomy and individuality.

Candidates will be able to state a college preference once they have been offered a place but in principle all successful applicants will be centrally ranked on the basis of their performance, then distributed randomly.

Not Slytherin, not Slytherin!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
New Brit Conservative Party leader David Cameron -- score, or snore?

CNN: Funeral directors boost high school recruiting efforts. Hey, I thought we were into "safe schools" and all that....

Oh, you mean recruiting for the profession. Well, have they tried sponsoring youth sports teams? "The Springfield Stiffs: We only look dead!" "The Unionville Caskets: This One's For You!"

Reminds me of the parish bulletin I once saw in a washed-up, former coal-mining town in Pennsylvania: most of the ads were for funeral parlors, and a large banner-ad proclaimed: "Patronize our advertisers."

Monday, December 12, 2005
You want lyrics? I got lyrics:

It came upon a midnight clear,
That indirect fire of old
From insurgents with RPGs
Along the palmy grove.
Pieces of shrapnel in my chipped beef
I strain out when all-clear is heard.
Next morning early we shoot him back,
That bloody insurgent turd.

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Top Ten Haditha Dam Christmas Carols:

SURCing Through the Snow
Argh, the Sergeant Tries to Sing
Ad Semper Fidelis
Pieces Flowing Down the River
We Three Kings Disoriented Are
Deck the Halls with Books of Ollie
O Come, O Army Manuel (solo: John McCain)
Bring a Torch, Let’s Light Up the Villa
Indirect Fire We Have Heard on High
Tomorrow Shall Be My Flightwatch Day

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Jonathan Lee news: Haditha Dam Security Unit in the blogosphere!

First, Bill Roggio has semi-suspended his blog The Fourth Rail and is now blogging as part of a news-agg site called ThreatsWatch. I have adjusted my Crusaders' Corner links accordingly.

Second, Bill is currently touring Marine bases in western Iraq -- and he stopped at the Haditha Dam, where Jonathan Lee is! Here is his report, complete with several photos of SURCs (small unit riverine craft) in action, and a picture of one entire SURC crew (not JL's, however).

Check out the tall gun in the middle of the SURC. Unless I'm much mistaken, that's the .50 cal. gun that JL mans when he's out on patrol.

Bill mentions the Dam Security Unit's commander, Maj. Joe Cleary. I met Maj. Cleary at Camp Lejeune, right after JL had finished his SURC training. Marine officers are great at chatting up the parents, and Maj. Cleary ("Joe," he wanted me to call him, though I didn't) had some fine patter. He said, "I tell these guys, it's not a million-dollar SURC that makes you Jedis -- it's your training as Marines!" Plus, he had some kind things to say about Jonathan Lee. Naturally I think he should be the next commander of all Marine forces in Iraq, and then become Commandant.

The NCOs aren't quites as smooth witht the parents as officers are, but they're very diligent in keeping parents in the loop through regular e-mails. The latest from one of JL's 1stSgts affirms that JL's platoon has in fact returned to the Dam (and to the house the Marines are using there, called "the Villa") after various missions at points between Haditha and the Syrian border. Excerpts:
Well, the other half of the Company returned to us Sunday. They had a successful mission and are glad to be home here at the dam. Now we are turning towards recertification training on them and getting ready to get them back in the mix. We finished up our mission on the lake side here with Operation Bullfrog and now we are waiting on our next assignment. The Marines are all doing well. We have our Christmas tree up in the Villa, and we are starting to decorate the other living areas that the Marines and Sailors live in. Mail has been good, so we want to thank all for that. We have several things on the plate for this week, BZO ranges, classes, weapons, vehicles, radios, and boat PM's. CMR reconciliation.
We're still waiting to find out what BZO ranges, PMs, and CMR are (and why CMR has to be reconciled, and with what or whom). But that kind of uncertainty is part of life with the Marines (LWM).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Bartok's BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE: Spiritual doorfare

"Seven doors. Why are they bolted?"
"So that none can see inside them."
"Give me the keys to all the doors."
"You don't know what's inside them...."
"Bluebeard, I love you...."
"Judith, Judith, do not do it...."

(Best recording in English. Well actually Sally Burgess gets a little screechy toward the end, but Gwynne Howell is a perfect Bluebeard, Mark Elder and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales play above their weight, and it's also the only recording in English since the one with Jerome Hines and Rosalind Elias, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, is out of print.)

I have in hand a "survey" from an organization called U.S. English. Some of the questions, and possible answers:

"Do you favor policies that encourage foreign-language speaking immigrants to continue to primarily use their native languages here in America?" Your question includes a split infinitive. You might be more convincing on the English-only issue if you learned it yourself.

"In the past, the federal government has used your tax dollars to pay for foreign language road signs. Do you believe this is a good policy?" Tush, that's just too easy for anyone who's ever hung out with libertarians. No, sir, I don't support use of tax dollars for road signs: I think roads should be private. And btw, you'll want a hyphen between "foreign" and "language" in that question -- you know, for correct English.

"Healthcare professionals and hospitals receiving federal funds are being forced to provide and pay for translators and non-English-speaking patients. Do you agree that precious medical resources should be spend on providing costly interpreter services?"
a. News to me that money, per se, is a medical resource. The feds give you money, the feds earmark how some of it will be spent -- that's problematic, how?
b. No, the federal government shouldn't required translators: that should be done by state or local law and paid for with state taxes.
c. No, I think it's funny when foreigners keel over dead b/c they can't communicate with doctors. Wtf??????

I may have to cut back my conservative magazine subscriptions if I keep getting on these creepy mailing lists.

Thursday, December 01, 2005
"'Deep-seated' is the new black!" And it gets even better from there as Eve shows why thinking with one's loins, or other seats of comfort-seeking, instead of with our minds and our rightly-formed consciences, fixes us way below the standards of human dignity that God sees in us, and even below those that no society can do without.