Friday, May 15, 2009

Summer Update

I'm back in beer mode. Had a week's break during which the weather finally found its way back into the 90's. That means yardwork, lots of it, the beer providing the incentive. The break's over, but the load's lighter, so I'll be able to stay in character most of the week. I promise not to drink before meeting a class, although sometimes it's hard to see how much it could hurt. For example, I read to one class a story by Guy de Maupassant. I told them to re-read it at home, and gave them some questions to answer. Next class I gave them a test. One of the questions was: in what city does the story take place? The second question was: in what country? Now, aside from the author's at the beginning, certain other names had popped up in the story, things like "the Seine," and "Champs Elysees," and "Rue des Martyr," and denominations of money like "francs," and "sous" and "louis," and terms of address like "Monsieur" and "Madame" and "Madamoiselle," and people with names like "Ramponeaux," "Forrestier," and "Loisel." One girl guessed the city as Rome, which she felt pretty sure was in the country of Italy. All but about three left the question blank. When I asked what famous river is mentioned in the story, someone answered "the Nile." In the face of this, I don't see why a teacher should be denied the fortification provided by a good whiskey or just about any brand of foreign lager.

While we're on the subject of the country's future, I saw in the news the other day that the city I live in (maybe it's the whole county of Orange - can't remember) is now comprised of a majority of minorities (49. something % white), and that approximately one-third, maybe more, of the entire country is now non-white, and that by some not-so-far-off year, say 2030 or 40, it'll be majority-minority. If any of you are old enough to have assumed that America would always be, at its core, the new and improved version of Europe-across-the-Atlantic, now's the time to wake up. It wouldn't bother me all that much if I could just be assured that, say, 90% of the illegals crossing the southern border knew in what country the Seine could be found, or that Ben Franklin is known for more than kite-flying. The lit class mentioned above is comprised of a few blacks, a few whites, a few Hispanics, and a couple of Muslims. I didn't get the impression that the whites knew their geography any better than the others. So if things end up going to hell, don't blame it on the minorities. It'll be everybody's fault, especially the white people who not only did a poor job of training their successors, but fell down on another one as well. In the immortal words of John the Tavernkeeper:

The Democrats own the blacks and the Hispanics and will continue to do so. Combined with that portion of the white population that considers itself liberal, and those that can be bought either under the table or with "programs", the Democrats have a lock on the American political future.

If the GOP had wanted a future it should have paid more attention to Pope Paul VI and Humanæ Vitæ 45 or so years ago.

And if, as you get older, you find yourself growing nostalgic for the company of white people, just remember that whatever fault you wish to find with other ethnicities, they knew more than you did about the purpose of one very fundamental thing: sex. They may be having a lot of it out of wedlock, but they reproduce nevertheless. White people don't like babies. Well, maybe one or two, but more than that and the little tykes become annoyances. They're expensive, and obfuscate the fun for which sex was primarily designed. Thus, we've decided to sterilize ourselves into obsolescence. To everything there is a season, and ours is over.

As the political and demographic landscape changes, some things remain the same. Like Notre Dame. A commenter at some website was of the opinion that the university had probably "learned its lesson" in light of the lay and ecclesial outrage which has greeted the invitation extended to Obama by Catholic bootlickers. I don't know what time warp that commenter stepped out of, but Notre dame's been doing this sort of thing since the 70's. Some people think it's still a Catholic university, but real Catholics don't hire people like Richard McBrien. Or Father Jenkins. In his article at The Weekly Standard, Joseph Bottum (formerly known as Jody, sometimes as J.) finishes up by asking:

If Georgetown doesn't appear Catholic to ordinary Catholics, that's just Georgetown. But if Notre Dame is shaky--if the most identifiably Catholic place in America doesn't seem Catholic--then the old connection between Catholic culture and Catholic institutions and the Catholic Church really is broken beyond repair. And where will Catholics send their children to school then?

I've got the answer: Notre Dame. And Georgetown, and Fordham, and USF and a bunch of other places that try to serve two masters. Why? Because most Catholics are no more Catholic than Notre Dame. Mr. Bottum himself points out that "He [Obama] won 54 percent of the Catholic vote in the last election, after all, and at least 45 percent of the vote of Mass-going Catholics."

Them's a lot of Catholics. If we restrict ourselves to the Mass-going kind, that 45 percent must be comprised of those who are against torture except when it's inflicted on born-alive infants. Well, there's comfort in the fact that 55 percent didn't vote for Obama. Maybe. I'm willing to bet that well more than half of that 55 percent either favor torture or make ambivalent apologies for it ("yes, it's wrong, but..."). It's the flavor of the day for the cafeteria conservative who wants to keep it safe, legal, and rare. Abortion and infanticide are far graver evils, of course, but when consequentialism is the modus operandi for over half the Catholic population, we got a problem.

* * *

Okay, I started this two days ago and I see that Obie's already given his speech. I saw Father Jenkins on a newsclip cuddling up close for the photo-ops. Most of the students seemed happy to have Obie on hand, and the only people arrested for fanaticism were abortion protestors, among whom was Norma McCorvey, the original Roe. They gave Obie an honorary law degree. Isn't he already a lawyer?

How did Yeats put it? "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." That may describe something in general, but it's wrong. The best on Notre Dame's commencement day ended up in jail, at least for a while. Hopefully they were all released on their own recognizability as decent human beings.

My initial purpose was not to write about societal degradation. It was to bring you up to date on...something. I'll remember before we're done. The problem is, I was sober at the time, a condition which inclines one to be half-serious about things. Now that I've done some yardwork washed down by a few Czech lagers, I see clearly what's really important.

You've probably been wondering, for example, about Sam the squirrel. I still feed him regularly. There's more than one squirrel, though, and I'm not sure which one's Sam. All I know is that I put nuts in the camphor tree on a regular basis, which inclines one squirrel to try to terrorize the other into leaving. He (Sam, I presume) chases him or her into the topmost branches to keep it all for himself. So I put nuts in more than one crook so that both can feast. One day I came out the back door and Sam was hanging from a big branch by his hind legs to attract my attention. Literally hanging there and swinging in the wind. I didn't have my camera handy, but I did get a shot of him eating the nuts:

video here.

Pretty single-minded about it, isn't he? Unlike a lot of people, he's true to his nature. Without fail. Animal nature can be disturbingly complex, though. I assume some of you saw the vids on youtube of Christian the lion. Animal Planet revisited the history of it recently, which included interviews with the two young men (now in late middle-age, or worse) who originally bought the lion cub at Harrod's in London back in the sixties and took him home as a pet. Here he is, still a cub, but not exactly your average kitty-cat:

And here he watches a newborn flock of chicks walk by without laying a paw on them:

As lions do, Christian grew big, too big to live in London outside of a zoo, so arrangements were made to take him to Africa, where George Adamson had agreed to try to acclimate him to the wild. George's story, and that of Elsa the lioness, was told in the movie Born Free. The actress who starred in that movie, Virginia McKenna, and her co-star, Bill Travers, met Christian and may have facilitated the arrangement with Adamson. So Christian was put on a plane and, many thousands of miles later, greeted by his owners:


As part of his introduction to a new life, Christian had to meet the full grown lion, Boy, already in Adamson's camp. Boy beat up on him pretty good, and once the dominance factor was established, the two were set free to start a pride of their own. They returned periodically of their own free will to Adamson's camp. One day Boy showed up, having been badly mauled by rival lions. He was treated for his wounds, of which he healed, but his temperament had changed. One day he showed up at camp and killed one of the black men who had worked with Adamson for years. I don't know what happened to him after that. But Christian had met with success, starting a pride of his own. He had been living in the wild for a year before his owners returned for a visit. Adamson knew where to find Christian, and took the young men with him. Christian just stared at them for an uncomfortably long time, and then this happened:


They saw him one more time, when he had come to full maturity, huge mane and all. He still recognized them and still displayed affection, but also more distance. After that they never saw him again.

Speaking of animals, Bern came home and I think I've captured the essence of her relationship with Cedar, as when they nap together...

...and when they're awake:

We also played golf and saw some more of these over the fence along the fairways:

Back in April I took a trip to the Quad Cities to see Elizabeth perform. Along the way, I saw some clouds from the topside at 30,000 some odd feet:

I know, big deal. Have you ever seen Atlanta, the town where Paul Cella lives, through the haze?

Well then, have you ever landed at Hartsfield Airport? I know you've always wanted to. If you're afraid of flying, this should put you at ease:


I know, it was just like being there, wasn't it? Busiest airport I've ever been through, by the way. I don't see how we got from the runway to the terminal without being hit. Planes taking off and landing all over the place. I wonder who coordinates it all.

Anyway, we eventually got where we were going so that we could look out over the ratty rooftops of Rock Island from our hotel window:

We crossed the river into Davenport to see the ballet. It appears to be a little more, oh, upscale than R.I., but the whole time I was there I kept thinking, as I had last time I was in Massachussetts, that this is one of those states where homosexuals can marry. For real. I mean pretend-for-real. It's an actual right imposed by judges, and will probably have social effects down the road somewhere, but it's a right to do something that can't be done. It entitles people to a relationship that doesn't really exist. For real. I think much of our moral and political life has become a fantasy life. How many states is it now, in which this fantasy right has come, or is about to come, to fruition? Massachussetts, New York, New Hampshire [!!], Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Iowa? Have I forgotten anybody? How many will it take before equal protection becomes mandatory?

The only thing I took the trip for was real enough, though - Elizabeth, with friend Josh, who works nearby as a computer whiz for John Deere, and who graduated from the same university as my girl.

One other thing the trip confirmed for me, after probing my child's heart about her experiences: the ballet world is full to repletion with vain, self-obsessed, petty, power-hungry, small-minded, visionless, heartless, no-talent narcissists. These qualities are exacerbated when they do have talent. They're almost as bad as writers.

I think I'm taking the rest of the summer off. Not sure, but it sounds like a good idea. At last semester's end, one of my students handed me a note as she left the final exam.

Mr. Luse, Thank you for making my first year at Valencia memorable. I am so glad I took your class. I will always remember you as you were the first teacher whose class I enjoyed. Thank you once again, H.

She's thoroughly American, but of a dark-skinned variety whose family's origins are by way of Egypt. I think they're Coptic Christians. Well, H., you just might keep me showing up for work one more year, just as my Elizabeth keeps going because every now and then, at the most unexpected moment, she runs into someone who offers the kindness of a compliment. It's such a little thing, isn't it?


Ellyn said...

Some delicious food for thought!

(Harrod's sold lion cubs?)

alaiyo said...

Re: your experience in class -- I feel your pain. :) Take the rest of the summer off; you've earned it! (I also agree with the idea that we are surely entitled to fortification before classes, but it *really* wouldn't go over well where *I* teach!)

dylan said...

Only 4 esses in Massachusetts!

wl said...

Yes, Ellyn, I wasn't sure I'd heard right either, but it's the truth.

Beth, I meant off from blogging. I've no choice but to teach this summer. Says you-know-who.

You're right, Dylan, and only one ass, though surely there must be many more. (Among whose number, let me hasten to add, you are not to be counted. You're probably one of the reasons the state's still standing.)

Lydia McGrew said...

I'll have to tell Bethel about the short story with all the French references and the students.

I never found out--why did they arrest the pro-lifers at Notre Dame? I mean, did they make up some new special regulation for "security" reasons that you can't demonstrate outside the graduation, or were the pro-lifers lying down in the street, or what?

alaiyo said...

Oh, don't take off from blogging! :)

Lydia McGrew said...

Ha! I asked _Clara_ (Middle Daughter, age 10) about a story with "oui" and "Mademoiselle" and "francs" in it, and _she_ knew it was in France. And when I said, "And what city might it be in, in France?" she guessed, "Paris." (She'd never heard of the Seine, though.) This is actually a bigger deal than you might think, because Clara does not soak information up like a sponge. It gets through, but only gradually, so she misses a good deal. Too focused on chess.

Bill, I echo Beth's request that you not give up blogging for the summer. Hey, you didn't give it up for Lent, why give it up for the summer? (That's a telling argument...I hope.)

wl said...

why did they arrest the pro-lifers at Notre Dame?I don't know, because I haven't followed it that closely. I guess they were doing their thing in an undesignated area. Pretty funny, though. Arresting the people who stand for what you're supposed to stand for, while inside a building dedicated to Our Lady you kiss the butt of the guy who thinks Mary should have had a "choice."

you didn't give it up for Lent, why give it up for the summer?It is a telling argument. It's just that I'm impervious to reason.

Bernadette said...

I know we've already discussed this, dad, but you are not supposed to have your camera on during landing! Please turn off all electronic devices includes that camera of yours :)

wl said...

Are you trying to get me in trouble? Twerp.