Friday, October 31, 2008

A Fuller Wine

I am almost a week late in mentioning that I went on a one-day retreat last Saturday. Organized by Busted Halo, the gathering was held at the Paulist Fathers' house on Manhattan's West Side.

At each of the Busted Halo retreats, there are three or four "talks" that begin and end with songs selected by the talk presenters. Last Saturday, one of the presenters used a good song I had never heard before: "A Fuller Wine" by Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet.

Here it is for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


"Everywhere I go I look for you.
Do you look for me where you go too?"

The Imminent Arrival

In her final Wall Street Journal column prior to Election Day, I think Peggy Noonan has well-summarized how many a reluctant Republican likely feels right now about the presidential election.

The beginning and end are best:

The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd "I have no comment," or "We shouldn't judge." Instead he said, "My mother had me when she was 18," which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn't have to.

There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton's 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen "Obama Wins" and "Alabama." She said, "Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school." She said, "That's where they used the hoses." Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

This means nothing? This means a great deal.


And there is this. The past few months as the campaign unfolded, I listened for Mr. Obama to speak thoughtfully about the life issues, including abortion. Our last Democratic president knew what that issue was, and knew by nature how to speak of it. Bill Clinton famously said, over and over, that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." The "rare" mattered. It set a tone, as presidents do, and made an important concession: You only want a medical practice to be rare when it isn't good. For Mr. Obama, whose mind tends, as intellectuals' minds do, toward the abstract, it all seems so . . . abstract. And cold. And rather suggestive of radical departures. "That's above my pay grade." Friend, that is your pay grade, that's where the presidency lives, in issues like that.

But let's be frank. Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.

A fitting end for a harem-scarem, rock-'em-sock-'em shakeup of a year -- one of tumbling inevitabilities, torn coalitions, striking new personalities.

Eras end, and begin. "God is in charge of history." And so my beautiful election ends.

Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher highlights two other graphs from this column.

All Hallows' Eve

Happy Halloween!

Over at Busted Halo, there's a new video by Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., and Mike Hayes that explains the connection between Halloween and the Church's celebration tomorrow (November 1) of All Saints Day:

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A few days ago, I mentioned the October 27 edition of America magazine, the national Catholic weekly (published by the Jesuits).

The issue has two other articles I found interesting:

-- A very touching essay by Lyn Burr Brignoli on the theme "A Case for God."

-- A look by M. Cathleen Kaveny at the technical meaning of the phrase "intrinsic evil" as it is used by the Catholic Church. The piece asks, "Is the concept of intrinsic evil helpful to the Catholic voter?"

Illustration at right is from here (uncredited).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Last night, I headed to St. Francis College in Brooklyn for a debate between the candidates standing for election on November 4 to the New York State Senate from the 25th Senatorial District: John Chromczak and Daniel Squadron.

The event was sponsored by the Brooklyn Heights Blog. The 25th District includes parts of lower Manhattan and western Brooklyn.

John Chromczak argued the issues with knowledge and passion. He demonstrated he has the tenacity to take on the power brokers in Albany. I was particularly impressed by his determination to see real progress on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.

Chromczak stressed that New York State government needs better management -- not additional tax dollars.

Daniel Squadron defeated the district's longtime incumbent in the September Democratic primary. I give him much credit for seeking the office and putting together the organization needed to bring down one of the old guard. I liked what he had to say in the debate about mass transit -- notably the creation of the Second Avenue subway and the extension of the 7 line farther into the West Side of Manhattan.

But, Squadron greatly troubled me with a repeated argument that the solution to New York State's problems is to put both houses of the legislature into the hands of the Democrats. The state senate is currently majority Republican, the state assembly currently Democratic. Squadron stated they both pass lots of one-chamber bills that never become law.

Squadron repeatedly stated that the divided legislature was hindering progress and that good government would be speedy with the Ds in charge.

Sorry, Dan. We all want government to be efficient. But, one-party rule is not the answer.

As Chromczak aptly rebutted, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

You can now watch the full debate on-line at this post.

Photo of John Chromczak above, from the Booklyn Heights Blog, is credited to Marc Hermann.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preferences & Evaluations

Final call for help:

Researchers from the NYU Psychology Department, supported by the National Science Foundation, are investigating the cognitive causes of voting behavior, political preferences, and candidate evaluations throughout the course of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.

They are looking at information voters use to inform evaluations during the last few weeks before the election.

Their on-line questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete if you would be willing to participate. It's anonymous.


My old stomping grounds in Western PA continue to get significant national press in the run up to Election Day. The New York Times, to name one, has been traipsing around Beaver County ... again.

And, Washington County received a mention in the October 27 edition of America, the national Catholic weekly magazine, in an article entitled "New Hues for the Electoral Map."

In the piece, author Robert David Sullivan of the blog "Beyond Red & Blue" places Western Pennsylvania into a region of the country he calls "Chippewa" (along with eastern Ohio, western New York, the West Virginia panhandle and parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri).

Here's that graph:

A win in Pennsylvania also hinges on McCain’s at least breaking even in the Chippewa part of the state. One bellwether is Washington County, just outside Pittsburgh, which Kerry carried by less than one point in 2004 and where Obama got only 29 percent in this spring’s primary.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Loading Dishwashers

This afternoon, we caught the new movie "Rachel Getting Married." The film looks at a few days in the life of a young woman named Kim, played by Anne Hathaway, who leaves a drug rehabilitation clinic to attend her sister's wedding festivities.

Directed by Jonathan Demme of "Silence of Lambs" and "Philadelphia" fame, "RGM" is a well-done movie that I never need to watch again -- only a voyeur would want to see one dysfunctional family's problems laid so tragically bare. (I've got enough of my own, thank you very much.)

I particularly never again want to watch the tension-laden rehearsal dinner scene in which Kim gives a drawn-out and painful toast.

There is a bit of Oscar buzz surrounding Hathaway's performance and it's somewhat deserved. In this role, she shows her more serious acting chops. At one point, I thought she was channeling a late-in-life Judy Garland.

The great actress Anna Deavere Smith had a bit part in "RGM" as the wife of Kim's father. It would be great to see more of Smith on the big screen -- in her own starring role.

Kim's father was portrayed by Bill Irwin, who is probably best known for his work as a mime. It was an unusual casting choice that worked quite well. He was the energy in a good scene in which he loaded a dishwasher. (Symbolism likely, I guess.)

Of Aliens & Neighbors

The Gospel at Mass today contains "The Great Commandment."

Coupled with the upcoming election and a first reading from Exodus that begins "You shall not molest or oppress an alien," I suspect many a homily today may mention Catholic teaching on immigration policy.

From Matthew Chapter 22:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking,"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

A Concord Pastor has a good homily on this Sunday's readings. He ended it with "The Summons":

Friday, October 24, 2008

American Catholics: "Politically Homeless"

John Allen, the respected Vatican observer, today came out with what has to be the smartest commentary yet on American Catholics and the dilemma they face in the 2008 presidential election.

Some graphs:

First, a disclaimer: This is not one of those nod-and-a-wink exercises, technically phrased in non-partisan language but obviously crafted to support one candidate or another. There's plenty of that already in Catholic discourse, from a handful of bishops on down. Instead, I'd like to try to think for a moment beyond Nov. 4, to the long-term implications of these elections for Catholicism in America.

Political Homelessness

Most analyses of the "Catholic vote" presume there are three basic camps: pro-Obama Catholics, pro-McCain Catholics, and the undecided. For purposes of electoral handicapping, that's a natural way of slicing the pie, but it neglects another important constituency. This block has no candidate, no network of think-tanks and advocacy groups, and it only registers indirectly in the polls: Catholics alienated from both parties, who aren't undecided but rather disenfranchised.

I was in Baltimore earlier this week for a speaking engagement, and fell into conversation with a bright young Catholic theologian who offered a terrific sound-bite for this camp: "I can't help thinking that both parties are addicted to preemptive strikes," he told me, "whether it's in the womb or on the battlefield."

John Carr, a veteran policy expert for the U.S. bishops, has said that Catholics who take the church's social teaching seriously wind up "politically homeless" in America. Just like the real homeless out on American streets, the politically homeless are often forgotten, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

If you want proof of the point, just look at the data from the Pew Forum about the preferences of religious sub-groups. The results for white Evangelicals, white mainline Protestants and black Protestants form flat lines since June; their attitudes haven't really budged in statistically significant fashion. White non-Hispanic Catholics, on the other hand, have oscillated dramatically. In July, they were going 47-44 for Obama; in late September, it was 52-39 for McCain; and by early October, it was 54-39 for Obama. One obvious reading is that there's a sizeable chunk of the Catholic population that simply isn't persuaded by either guy.

Here's a thought exercise: In the abstract, what would the political fortunes be in America of a candidate who actually embodied the full range of Catholic social concerns? What would happen if a serious candidate came along who's pro-life, pro-family, anti-war, pro-immigrant, anti-death penalty, pro-sustainable development, and a multi-lateralist in foreign policy concerned with religious freedom and a robust role for believers in public life? My hunch is that such a candidate could be attractive to a broad cross-section of moderates and independents. The machinery of both major parties, however, appears almost designed to prevent such a person from ever being nominated.

Agreed. And it bugs me.

In a post today, Deacon Greg said he too falls into this "politically homeless" category.

Appreciated for Simply Showing Up

Today's New York Times carries a high school sports story out of the foothills of western Washington County, Pennsylvania.

The story tells the tale of the Avella High School Eagles, a varsity football squad down to 10 or 11 players.

From John Branch's well-done article:

At practice earlier this week, only 10 boys and a girl were willing and able to put on pads. Against the powerhouse Clairton last week, Avella dressed 11 players, leaving not a single substitute on the sideline. One player was hurt in the second quarter, and the Eagles played the rest of the game with 10. They lost, 56-0. It was Avella’s 26th defeat in a row and the 50th in 51 games dating to 2003.

Coach Frank Gray sent a thank-you note this week to his Clairton counterpart for showing class and restraint.

People around town are rather embarrassed by how far the program has fallen. They bemoan a teenage culture in which playing for the high school team has lost its allure in western Pennsylvania, of all places, where football and coal long represented toughness and resilience, where names like Joe Namath and Joe Montana were forged. But slowly this season, the remaining Eagles have come to represent something completely different from losing. They are being appreciated simply for showing up.

Hat-tip: Cousin Luke

The photo above is credited to Jeff Swensen for the NYT.

Autumn in New York

I have never been one to welcome the cooling temperatures and falling leaves -- I'm really a sumer person. But, there is one part of the fall routine the I do enjoy: hearing the soulful tune "Autumn in New York."

Here are some variations on that piece for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Billie Holiday:

Charlie Mariano:

The Stuart Mindeman Trio:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The 39 Steps

I've been remiss in mentioning here that, on Sunday afternoon, we caught the matinee performance of the Broadway play "The 39 Steps" at the Cort Theater.

The winner of two '08 Tony Awards (one for sound design, one for lighting design), the play is a take on the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock.

The play was pleasant and humorous -- an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a fall afternoon.

When the play premiered in January, the headline of Ben Brantley's positive review in The New York Times was "Spies, Blonde and a Guy Go North by Northwest." Two notable lines from the review:

But the appeal here is ultimately more to theater aficionados than to movie buffs, and you don’t need to have seen the movie to appreciate the accomplishment of the show. Ms. Aitken and company are using their cinematic template to celebrate the art of instant illusion making that is theater. Much of the show’s pleasure comes from being in on the magician’s tricks even as, on some primitive level, you accept them. ...

For in addition to providing the relief of being committedly silly in a season of fine dramas about unhappy families, “The 39 Steps” stands out for its plying of minimal resources to maximal effect.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Faithful Citizens in Fairfield, NJ

A word of thanks to the pastoral council, pastor and parishioners of St. Thomas More Church in Fairfield, New Jersey, for asking me to join them earlier tonight for a presentation on "Faithful Citizenship."

It was a good gathering centered around the issues facing Catholics headed into the voting booth in just two weeks. The presentation was preceded by an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (perhaps the hardest act to follow ever).

Thanks also to the evening's co-sponsors, the West Essex Catholic Young Adults -- and to Chris Hrycyshyn, a St. Thomas More Church pastoral council member and young adult leader, who very graciously got me to and from the bus stop.

The stained-glass window shown here is from the parish's Website. It depicts the parish's patron saint, St. Thomas More (1478 - 1535). The chancellor of King Henry VIII's England, he lost his head for being faithful to his beliefs in difficult political times.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Belongs To God

The Gospel at Mass today is the well-known "Render unto Caesar" passage.

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"

Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax."

Then they handed him the Roman coin.

He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"

They replied, "Caesar's."

At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

The image above is from here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Racism in WashPA

The lead anecdote in this post out of Washington, PA, doesn't exactly make me proud of my old stomping rounds. It's from the blog FiveThirtyEight.

Hat-tip: Sully

The Great Schlep

Advisory #1: I do not necessarily agree with the premise of the video I am posting below. In posting the video, I am not lobbying for Senator Obama.

Advisory #2: I AM NOT endorsing the language used in the video. If you are offended by the "a" word or the "f" bomb, do not click play.

But, I am posting this video because I find "The Great Schlep" original. It's the kind of creative, Internet-based, niche-group political activity that has helped propel Senator Obama to where he is today. I don't think thousands of young Jews are actually buying plane tickets to Florida. But, I do think it may have them picking up the telephone.

Here's Sarah:

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

It's dismaying that the Republicans aren't doing similar kinds of niche outreach in key states and beyond. And, they should.

Confidential to the McCain campaign: my own grandma called me on Friday asking for advice on the prez vote. She's a strong pro-lifer who has yet to be inspired by either candidate. So, there's at least one GOP super voter senior citizen in Western Pennsylvania you have yet to lock up.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I am outside of Chicago, Illinois, where later today and tomorrow we will be exhibiting at the Archdiocese of Chicago's annual religious education conference. It's my second time at this one.

In honor of the visit, here is Sufjan Stevens with his mellow song "Chicago" for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Here's a cool a capella version of the tune:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jealous of Joe

I'm rather jealous of "Joe the Plumber."

What about Paul the Marketing Manager?

Paul the Marketing Manager has opinions. He's worried about tax rates, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Worthy of the Moment?

The last of the presidential debates between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama is slated for tonight at Hofstra University on Long Island. My tentative plan is to watch it at a YR debate watch party at the Houndstooth Pub in Midtown Manhattan.

I'm hoping the senators are truly respectful of each other and keep it issues-based. I'd love to be inspired and come out of it feeling better about both men and the American democracy. But, if past is prologue ...

In her column in last Friday's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan expressed thoughts similar to my own on the last debate and what the two campaigns have been saying recently:

Both campaigns, in the closing stretch, seem not fully worthy of the moment. We are in crisis—a once-in-a-century event, as we now say. And what we got from the candidates, in this week's presidential debate, was a bunch of gummy meanderings—smooth, rounded sentences so full of focus-grouped inanities that six minutes in viewers entered a kind of trance in which we almost immediately gave up on trying to wrest meaning from what was being said and instead focused on mere impressions. The look of things. The men on the plane, the pseudo-tough political operatives who surround both candidates, sometimes grouse, in private, that it's all symbols now, all mood, all about the visual.

But they have some real responsibility here. They send their candidates out to speak such thin gruel, such spat-out porridge, that we are struck dumb, and left daydreaming about the fact that Mr. Obama's suits are always slate gray and never seem to wrinkle, and Mr. McCain tonight seems like a rabbity forest creature darting amid the hedgerows.

As to what they will do about the crisis, Mr. Obama will raise taxes on the rich and help us weatherize our homes, while Mr. McCain favors "energy independence" and buying up mortgages. On the causes of the crisis they spoke of insufficient regulation, or high spending.

But these were not the great causes. Neither party has clean hands. Or rather, both parties have dirty hands. Here is the truth, spoken by the increasingly impressive Sen. Tom Coburn: "The root of the problem is political greed in Congress. Members . . . from both parties wanted short-term political credit for promoting homeownership even though they were putting our entire economy at risk by encouraging people to buy homes they couldn't afford. Then, instead of conducting thorough oversight and correcting obvious problems with unstable entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, members of Congress chose to . . . distract themselves with unprecedented amounts of pork-barrel spending." That is the truth.

And yet at the debate, when one citizen-questioner invited both candidates to think aloud about the responsibility of our representatives in Washington, they both gently suggested she was cynical.

She was not cynical. She was informed.

Why would anyone trust either candidate to help dig us out of this if they can't speak frankly about what got us into it?

One had the sense this week that our entire political class is playing Frisbee on the edge of a precipice, that no one is being serious enough, honest enough, that it's all too revved, too intense, and yet too shallow. I have grown impatient with the strategists from the campaigns, the little blond monsters who go on cable TV to give us their bouncy, aggressive, tendentious talking points. They are like the men on the plane, the gargoyles with BlackBerrys who think the race is about them and their personal win/loss ratio, who think history is their plaything, who stay up with the press in the bar sipping Perrier and calling it seltzer, and who advise their candidates, in essence, to talk down to the voters, to the American people. They treat every crisis as if it is a political fact to be used for gain or loss, and not as a real crisis, something that deserves a response of gravity and seriousness.

It is asking a lot to ask a political animal to be thoughtful, because they find meaning in action. They are propelled through life by the force of their hunger. But now and then you want to see them think. You want to see them speak the truth. This is one of those times.

The photo above is from Gothamist.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Campaigning makes you hungry:

Hat-tip: The Anchoress

Infinite Playlist

I have been remiss in doing a post on the new movie "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist," which we caught last Thursday evening.

While I don't think it's destined to be a classic, "N&NIP" was a decent, enjoyable flick. (As of this writing, it has a 72 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes.)

The story follows two New Jersey teenagers (and some assorted friends) during a long night in Manhattan. The big name in this one is Michael Cera of "Juno" and "Superbad" fame.

Note to my crew in Pittsburgh who have not yet been to NYC: go see this movie if you want a sense of my current surroundings. A number of the scenes were filmed in my neighborhood.

One late-night scene was shot at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant on Second Avenue at 9th Street. It's a place I often take out-of-town guests for an affordable dinner that's different yet safe and homey.

The Feast is Ready

I went to Sunday Mass yesterday during the Pilgrimage of Hope in Boston. The solemn liturgy was celebrated by Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Cardinal O'Malley brought his diverse, humble and intelligent approach to his homily on the Gospel, a challenging (and rather violent) passage containing "The Parable of the Wedding Feast."

From Matthew Chapter 22:

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying:

"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.

"A second time he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’

"Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.

"The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

"Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’

"The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?'

"But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

"Many are invited, but few are chosen."

Friday, October 10, 2008

On Pilgrimage

Today, I am heading to Boston where this weekend my gig is hosting a two-day "Pilgrimage of Hope." On Saturday evening, the program includes a concert of sacred music that will conclude with Bach's "Magnificat in D."

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is a sample of that stirring work.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cognitive Causes

A reminder:

Researchers from the NYU Psychology Department, supported by the National Science Foundation, are investigating the cognitive causes of voting behavior, political preferences, and candidate evaluations throughout the course of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.

They are now looking at information people use to inform evaluations during the last few weeks before the election.

Their on-line questionnaire takes about 15 minutes to complete if you would be willing to participate. It's anonymous.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fundamental Architecture

David Brooks had some good thoughts today in his NYT column on the economic crisis. Key graphs:

At these moments, central bankers and Treasury officials leap in to try to make the traders feel better. Officials pretend they’re coming up with policy responses, but much of what they do is political theater. In reality, they’re trying to cajole, bluff and calm their audience of global money-sloshers.

This is more than a mortgage problem. We live in a world in which trillions of dollars can move instantly, but they are in the hands of human beings who are, by nature, limited in knowledge, and subject to self-deceptions and social contagions. By one count, financial crises are twice as prevalent now as they were 100 years ago.

In his astonishingly prescient book, “The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy,” David M. Smick argues that we have inherited an impressive global economic system. It, with the U.S. as the hub, has produced unprecedented levels of global prosperity. But it has now spun wildly out of control. It can’t be fixed with the shock and awe of a $700 billion rescue package, Smick says. The fundamental architecture needs to be reformed.

Coates & McWhorter

I find myself more and more a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author and now a blogger for The Atlantic. I was especially drawn to his September 26 column on Governor Sarah Palin -- even though I don't agree with his conclusion.

Below is a recent discussion between Coates and John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. It's a strong, wide-ranging conversation on hip hop, Senator Barack Obama and more.

It's 52 minutes long but worthwhile viewing:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Jews & Cuban Food

Saturday Night Live nailed it last night with their take on the VP debate.


Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

I WENT to sleep; and now I am refreshed.
A strange refreshment: for I feel in me
An inexpressive lightness, and a sense
Of freedom, as I were at length myself
And ne’er had been before. How still it is!
I hear no more the busy beat of time,
No, nor my fluttering breath, nor struggling pulse;
Nor does one moment differ from the next.
I had a dream; yes: — someone softly said “He’s gone;”
and then a sigh went round the room.
And then I surely heard a priestly voice
Cry “Subvenite;” and they knelt in prayer.

-- John Henry Newman, "Dream of Gerontius"

Some of these words of Cardinal Newman (1801 - 1890) were recalled Thursday by Fr. Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and postulator of the cardinal's cause for beatification and canonization.

He recalled the lines after announcing that no physical remains of the great 19th Century English churchman were found in his grave in a small secluded cemetery. The discovery means Cardinal Newman's casket did not have a lead lining as had been expected.

The body of Cardinal Newman was to have been exhumed and moved to a prominent location in the Birmingham Oratory in anticipation of his beatification -- a not uncommon practice for Saints of the Church.

The inscription plate of Cardinal Newman's coffin was found in the grave:

From the Archdiocese of Birmingham statement:

"During the excavation the brass inscription plate which had been on the wooden coffin in which Cardinal Newman had rested was recovered from his grave. It reads:

'Eminent [issimus] et Reverend [issimus] Joannes Henricus Newman Cardinalis Diaconus S Georgii in Velabro Obiit Die XI August. MDCCCXC RIP'

English Translation:

'The Most Eminent and Most Reverend John Henry Newman Cardinal Deacon of St George in Velabro Died 11 August 1890 RIP'

Somewhere in heaven I think an old Englishman may be smiling at our earthly presumptuousness.

Hat-tip: Whispers in the Loggia

"This is the Heir"

The Gospel at Mass today brings us another parable set in a vineyard in which Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God.

From Matthew Chapter 21:

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:

"Hear another parable.

"There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.

"When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.

"Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'

"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’

"They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"

They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times."

Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?

"Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

Deacon Greg has an excellent homily on today's Mass readings in which he reflects on the financial crisis and the example of Dorothy Day. (BTW: prayers for Deacon Greg as he begins a new segment of his journey.)

The image above, called "The Wicked Tenants," is by Austin artist James B. Janknegt.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Debate Watch

Speaking of Governor Palin, I was pleasantly surprised Thursday evening to get a call from one of the long-time readers of this blog looking for me to be live-blogging on the vice presidential debate.

Unfortunately for the blog -- but fortunately for my sanity and social life -- I watched the VP debate at a debate watch party, one of several held in Manhattan that night.

My overall impression? First of all, it was great television -- much more engaging and lively than the first presidential debate.

And, while I wish Governor Palin had not skipped a number of questions posed to her, I thought she came off fairly well. She seemed strong and determined. As Peggy Noonan said yesterday in her Wall Street Journal column, "There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics."

It wasn't a bad night for Senator Joe Biden either. He seemed to be having a good time. I loved his smile when Governor Palin threw zingers his way. It almost looked as if he wanted to congratulate her (in a grandfatherly way) for being in the ring and holding her own.

My friend and fellow NYU Journalism alum Sylvan Solloway captured two of the Manhattan VP debate watch parties on video for the New York Post.

Her report is here.

The photo above is from here.

Seeing Old Problems with Fresh Eyes

I am late in posting this but felt it was still a relevant aspect of the presidential campaign to remember:

For the September 15 edition of America, the magazine's editors penned an excellent editorial called "Young Americans" in which they praised a particular shared biography point of Senator Obama and Governor Palin:

What now seems like eons ago, the presidential race began with arguably the most diverse cast of candidates in our nation’s history. As we enter the fall stretch, the field includes an African-American and a woman, a heartening display of the diversity that is now acknowledged as a fact of life by most Americans. The ascendancy of both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin was unexpected, and in many ways they are unlikely representatives of their respective demographic groups. Unlike most African-American leaders of the last 40 years, Obama did not take part in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, nor is he is a descendant of American slaves. Palin is a pro-death penalty, pro-drilling-in-the-Arctic-Reserve member of the National Rifle Association and Feminists for Life. She has little in common with Hillary Clinton, much less with Gloria Steinem.

Perhaps because of their unusual biographies, both Obama and Palin have proved able to confront divisive issues and mend longstanding rifts. In a speech delivered on Father’s Day, Obama called for African-American men to play a greater role in their children’s lives, a neuralgic issue in the black community, and under his leadership the Democrats have started to bring some pro-life Catholics back into the tent. Sarah Palin targeted members of her own party suspected of corruption, and her rise to prominence is proof that the term anti-abortion feminist is not an oxymoron.

Much has already been made of the youth of these candidates (both are in their 40s) and their relative inexperience. Yet could it be that their youth is an asset, that it allows them to see old problems with fresh eyes?

Laser Monks

Here at the end of another week of uncertainty for our financial systems, it is nice to see that there is another way of operating in the market:

Hat-tip chain: The Anchoress via Deacon Greg via Padre Steve


Tiffany Boardman, a friend from the years of my PA State House races, has started her own Christian inspiration blog called "t-time."

From the new blogger:

"About five years ago, when our church started its “Contemporary Service,” I would send out the weekly 'order of worship' via e-mail to those that attended so they would have a clue about what was coming up on Sunday morning. Because I couldn’t just send out the order by itself, I started adding my own little bits of inspirational messages to go with the week’s theme. After much prayer, I felt it was time to 'go public' with my messages. Well, the time is now and “t time” is alive and running. Check it out!"

"t-time" includes a player with Christian contemporary music (starts automatically) -- great for those days when you need a lift.

An aside: I met Tiffany through Michael Wallace.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Prayer of St. Francis

Saturday (October 4) is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here are a few settings of "The Prayer of St. Francis."