Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's Get Practical - Pontifical Universites in Rome - Tips

H'ok, so - if you're coming to Rome, there are a few things you (as a student) should know:

Shampoo and Conditioner are SUPER EXPENSIVE and of BAD QUALITY! If you are of the female persuasion (and for some males), you may be in the habit of washing your hair every day. Break that habit! Your hair AND your pocket-book will thank you.

Toadis - find this discount food store and stick to it LIKE GLUE. You'll save oodles and oodles of money if you go to Toadis (pronounced "Toad-issss).

Don't bother to bring peanut butter. People on online message boards, etc., are always saying: "blah blah blah...peanut butter is SO hard to find here...blah blah blah." LIES!

Ziplock bags are super handy, ne? Bring a box because you cannot find them here. SRSLY.

Again, if you are of the female persuasion (men, don't read this if you're squeamish), don't worry about...er... the necessities for that process that women go through. Italian brands be fine.

Bring clothes. Clothing here be ridiculously expensive.

Don't bother with super-duper-heavy coats. You only need that type of coat 4 days out of the entire winter season.

Bring a backup power-cord for your laptop. If your power-cord fails (which is easy enough, given that voltage converters can easily malfunction and totally fry your cord), you're up a creek with no paddle because most American companies do not ship such small items overseas to Italy. BRING A BACKUP POWER CORD. JUST BRING AN EXTRA.

DON'T worry about the banking situation. If you have MC/Visa, you can easily withdraw money here. Your bank figures the current conversion rates, so you don't need to worry about currency exchange. There will be a small fee that the bank you're withdrawing from will charge, but that's pretty inconsequential. So DON'T FRET about money.

UNLESS you're considering withdrawing from a random ATM in the wall or at a train-station. DON'T DO EITHER. The number of stories I've heard about card-skimming at stations is ridiculously high, and random ATMs in random walls are never to be trusted. Only use an ATM at a bank branch, unless you have absolutely no other choice.

Annnnd. That's all for now. Any questions, ye people considering applying to a Pontifical University in Rome?

***EDIT***

Zadok the Roman adds:
Bring a surge protector. In my experience, Italian electricity is unpredictable. That's why any electrical appliance I cared about was on a surge protector.

Italian cold & flu remedies are useless. Bring your medicine of choice from home.
And a friend asked about dental hygiene products.

MOUTHWASH I do not use, but a friend informs me that Italian mouthwash is weaksauce and it's best to buy a Costco sized jug and bring that if mouthwash is your thing.

TOOTHPASTE AND TOOTHBRUSHES are absolutely a-ok.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beauty in Truth - Ugliness in Use

"A Room with a View" is one of those essential chick-flick-y things, eh? Never having seen the movie, and being computer-less and in want of some occupation (I am using a computer now, thanks to the generosity of a housemate), I picked up the novel by E.M. Forster and started reading.

May I just say: Bleh! Bleh! Bleh!

Forster is on my poo-list of writers! He's so full of his own writing that he completely neglects the characters - they're these rough cutouts of people who do and say things that no one would say or do because Forster HAS A VISION GOSHDARNIT and his characters WILL LEAD SO TOTALLY UP TO THAT VISION WHETHER IT'S NATURAL TO THEIR CHARACTER OR NO.

What is good literature? Good literature, I'd posit, has something to do with eternity - characters grapple, in their own way, as best they can, not necessarily with explicit great questions (because, remember, a character approaches these questions *in their own way* which may be either dim and obscure or clear and exact) but with questions that touch on the nature and destiny of man. Why else is Wiseblood so interesting? Or the LOTR? Or Crime and Punishment? Is it because we see that the author is driving home a point and operating his characters like puppets or is it because a character is articulating an understanding of the universe which, even if wrong, allows us to react against or with it - or to hold ourselves back and remain neutral? Good literature never becomes stale because great questions (who am I? Where am I going? Does God exist? What is evil?) never become stale and a sensitive and subtle approach to them simply sets a question off brilliantly and gently. Further, the reader is left to form their own opinion regarding whatever is being treated of - even Fielding, who loved to interject himself into his novels, simply entreated the reader to this or that view rather than commanding them to it.

It's not good literature to approach A question, make it THE question, and cause ALL your characters to behave as if it WERE the question and to expect the reader to sympathize. It may or may not be THE question, but there are sure to be disagreements among any character remotely resembling a human being. Otherwise, t'ain't art, it's propaganda. So, don't, Mr. Author Dear, force YOUR idea down the throats of your characters - let them BE, for goodness sake, and, if you're a good writer, you will wind up where you want to be at the end because the characters will still be imbued with you but in a more natural way that respects the characters and the reader.

A Room with a View gets my "never read this trash" vote.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How you say? "'igh?" "Oh, HI"

Slowly but surely, Italians are beginning to make a little bit more sense to me. Per esempio, ho fato i biscotti per una classe in italiano, and became absolutely ADORED. Italians who had viewed me with some amount of suspicion (WHY was an American taking classes in Italian when she could take them in ENGLISH? Is she cRaZy!?!) all semester plumped firmly onto my side once they realized that the "American cookies" I had made (not bought - MADE - that fact quite impressed them) signaled that I was not so bad for an American.

Really, given the way most Americans conduct themselves - even in Pontifical Universities - I cannot blame anyone for considering us (Americans as a whole) brutish, crude, and, even, a disgrace. Many Americans come to tour and believe that *paying* for something gives them the right to act however they want - on the bus, they shout, they swear, they carry on indecent conversations because they believe that Italians are SO IGNORANT that they cannot understand what the Americans are saying. We dress in ways that are truly appalling (I'm not talking mismatched patterns, here, but revealing clothing -- it stands out a lot more in the sea of higher necklines and covered shoulders). We're ignorant of culture, history, and etiquette., etc., etc. Truly, we do not present well at all!

Whereas, I've discovered, many Italians are extraordinarily fluent in American culture and language, to the point that it's almost unusual to come across an Italian without a rudimentary knowledge of English (granted, English is one of those universal languages, but, still...) and certainly without a knowledge of some American culture!

Le sigh. 'mericans! At least pretend to be civilized!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Spread the Truth by Killing All Its Messengers? An Ingenious Plan.

I think the Circumcellions are hilarious.

Something like this popped into my head as I read about them:

Silly Circumcellions

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Be Respectabibble!

People! Respect the idea!

I find the notion that people should run around with the attitude of disrespect towards ideas/propositions to be appalling. This attitude, sadly, is widespread. It is here, it is now, and I think it's because the wee-punks who run around thinking it's terribly deep to FLY IN THE FACE OF X simply have never opened themselves in such a way as to be formed by things that are terribly beautiful, deep, and true. Ironically, they're not the radical free thinkers that they think they are. They are caaaayyyyeeeeged in their own 'eads.

For example, one gentleman (who I met once - don't run around thinking I'm a terrible, horrible gossip!) and I had a discussion about "Wuthering Heights." I made some general, interpretive remark, and the gentleman forcefully asserted that the reason the woman married the man she did was because she was obsessed with power! Not a word I could say, not a textual basis I could provide to the contrary, would budge this man from his firm conviction that the woman in Wuthering Heights was a power-hungry wench. Eventually, he simply said "look, I KNOW I'm right." Next, this gentleman (well, perhaps I should say "barbarian") told me that MUCH of literature is about power-hungry women.

Perhaps he'd been reading M. Bovary earlier that day? Anyway, the gentleman was very happy with his neatly reasoned argument, and left satisfied that he'd, er, convinced me (I'd given up trying to speak with him and reverted to mundane pleasantries).

OKAYEEE!

You see, a thing should be allowed to be the thing that it is. Love, oddly enough, entails letting the people whom you love be who they are. When you force something onto them (say, making them take a calligraphy class with you because you think it is so t'eh awesome - which it is, but some people prefer to keep their admiration for art at a distance from the actual practice of that art), you're not letting them be.

Take this poem from Dorothy Parker's for example:
They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They'll try to make you different;
And once they have you, safe and sound,
They want to change you all around.
Your moods and ways they put a curse on;
They'd make of you another person.
They cannot let you go your gait;
They influence and educate.
They'd alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.
While I am not quite in accord with D.P. here, on the subject of men in general, I must say that she has put her finger on an attitude - many people do not immerse themselves into an idea but impose themselves onto that idea. One finds many screeds on the internet regarding Catholicism: "doohoooooo," people chortle, "dey believe dat Noah built dis huuuuuge ship-thing with many dem animals! hurrr! hurrr! How stoooopid! Religion! Stooopid!" What a marvelously articulated argument! It amounts to someone thinking something couldn't possibly be true and, of course, if that's your 'tude, you WILL NOT actually arrive at an idea itself because you cannot get past YOUR OWN HEAD.

Consider conspiracy-theorists - nothing you can say will make them change their minds. They have decided to interpret the world through some specs that they have fashioned. They are not encountering reality or ideas. They cannot LET a thing BE ITSELF. And why not? Because they don't want to.

Disrespecting ideas is appalling not because there is, necessarily, anything respectable about an idea. There are some really terrible ideas. Disrespecting ideas/propositions is appalling because it does not permit a man to act freely within the world. I wouldn't consider a man to be acting freely when he is operating off of false information! But we're operating off of false - or, at best, limited - information if we do not permit things to be what they are. If you're so stuck in a world of your own making, you're never going to be a free thinker. To be a free thinker entails the respect of ideas or propositions because, otherwise, you would never be GET anywhere IN thinking because you would always be thinking about things within the enclosure of your OWN HEAD: you will always arrive at the conclusions that you had in the first place, you will never experience true curiosity, you will never, ever, be free.

So DUDES. CHILLAX already! Let ens be.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yesterday, I ordered a cornuto at the bar...

But there is a vasty difference between a "cornuto" and a "cornetto."

*cough*

Speaking of horns, this scene from the Last Unicorn never fails to move me:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marketing Being

The markets in Italy are wonderful - fresh gnocchi, eggs, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and...er...old...but fresh cheese, are readily available. But choose your vendor wisely and, then, stick to them like glue. The vendors develop a rapport with their clients. If you are one of theirs, they give you tips on which fruits/vegetables are particularly ripe or best for your purposes (if you let them know what you're cooking). If you are one of theirs, you get fresh, free herbs - and sometimes vegetables - because you're theirs and they have a sort of obligation to do right by you because you've bound yourself to them with the decision to patronize their market stall. This works both ways - if you have picked your vendor, and become disloyal to him, other vendors *know* you're disloyal and are more likely to give you produce of a sub-par quality. You see, in most fruit and vegetable markets, you Don't Touch the Wares. That's Just Gross. The vendor will come out from behind the register and pick out the produce you indicate - they handle the produce while you watch and they CAN give you the worse wares. Why give what's good to the disloyal if you have loyal customers?

On another note, Brian V. recently wrote a small blogpost on ambiguity. I'd been thinking about this topic before he wrote wot he wrote, because I am now in a foreign country in which, to be American, is to open yourself up to a host of bad things. American women are easy. Americans are easy pickpocket targets. Americans are pushovers. Americans are stupid.

Really, I've never thought of myself as an American or of identifying myself with any particular group - but that might be because I am a mix of Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian, and possibly French and Italian. My ancestors were all about diversity. Add to this that I grew up in the Bay Area which has more ethnicities than you could shake a stick at, and you might understand that strict ethnic delineations only make sense to me on a superficial level.

I move among cultures. I don't see different cultures as those things that exclude others, but culture qua culture as something inclusive of all that is good in all cultures - or, in other words, Catholic. Really, I'm comfortable not with ambiguity persay, but I am comfortable with truly loving aspects of a different culture and falling into those aspects. For example, I love, love, love both sushi and Mexican food. I make very good sushi rolls and very good salsa verde. These are radically different cultures, and only a small bit of those cultures, but I don't see this as an intrusion into another culture. Rather, it is an absorption of the good. 'cause sushi is good. And so is salsa verde. And, if you truly love something, you're not going to be treating it in an unseemly or disrespectful or superficial manner - this encompasses not just food, but also clothing, art, literature, etc.

To define oneself is a difficult thing - we are always becoming more or less of who we are. Our intellection of being is a sort of creepy thing. In our soul, we become all things, we have these phantasms, these whatchamacallits. We've grasped the thing - we've touched on being. I suppose what I'm saying is that I've never regarded this ambiguity as an experiment, but as part of being human. Wouldn't it be just a bit wrong if there were something good in front of you and you declined to participate in that good because it just wasn't your cultch'a? The definition of self is continuous and culminates in death. There will always be some ambiguity.

Granted, if you're intoxicated with the idea that you might be mistaken for a Jew, Italian, etc., and you pursue aspects of another culture because of that, the experiment should end. I take delight in being mistaken for an Italian not only because it protects me from unpleasantness and opens doors, but also because it means I am succeeding in grocking parts of their culture. I do not pretend to be Italian - but I do imitate Italians because it is where I am and there are certain conventions that residents of Italy follow and which I also ought to follow because it would be discourteous otherwise. Even if that were not so, I would still delight in being mistaken for an Italian because they have deep (and, in some cases, deeply flawed) loves. Such a mistaken identification may reflect well on one's own being. I'm not talking here of the way one dresses, but of something more profound - an attitude in the face of the universe that takes delight in what ought to be delighted in (though, of course, in the mode proper to the object/subject).

So, if you learn to see that X is wonderful, then, dude, you're on the right track... And, unless it goes against a culture to do or wear x, go for it - whatever it is.

Dude...

Hee hee! So American.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I am not on speaking terms with the weather in Rome.

Piazza Venezia in the Sunset

You see, a few days ago, I put on two skirts - the one underneath to poof up the top skirt which is made of silk (a very light fabric). The silk skirt is a circle skirt which means, essentially, lots of fabric - qua poodle skirts. I got up early and sat on the porch. It was sunny, clear, still, and beautiful. Perfect! It was my first day of class, so I did my hair up pretty, donned everything I thought necessary, and headed blithely out the door.

Shortly thereafter, clouds darkened the skies and the wind started gusting rather strongly.

Right by Piazza Venezia (a major artery for traffic in Rome), I encountered a...wardrobe malfunction. Circle skirts made out of light fabric do not mix well with wind. Let's just say that, in the middle of the morning traffic, right by Piazza Venezia, I pulled quite the Marilyn Monroe when the wind came. The Italian men were rather fans of this. Remember, I had another skirt on underneath that was quite, quite proper, so it wasn't as if anything indecent really happened, but the knowledge that one's modesty is preserved does little to comfort when under the intense scrutiny of dozens of male drivers with a horn at their disposal.

It was quite embarrassing. I made my way in a daze to the Angelicum in short, little runs between gusts of wind - my poor heart beating with anxiety all the time.

Phew. Safe at the Angelicum! Oh, what's this? Two classes in English that I thought were next semester (because they weren't listed in the student book which listed all the classes) were actually - surprise! - *this* semester and would require the power of bilocation to attend because they were smack in the middle of two other classes I needed to take. So I, regretfully, exchanged them for the equivalent classes in Italian and started my first class a shattered wreck and shadow of my former self.

Next up: Italian Markets - choose your vendors wisely.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I can haz Rome?

Ohhh my lovelies.

Obama ain't got nothin' on Rome. Rome is truly a place of change. Is your bill 2.57 euros? The clerk will wait forever as you count out 57 cents - and the people behind you, in line, will wait for forever and a half. Having the correct amount of change is *almost* a requirement and you run the risk of being turned away if you don't have that 57 cents. Why? Who knows! You might as well ask: why all this senseless bureaucracy? Boh. It's just the way it is and you have to accept it on those terms or else you'll screw yourself over.

Now - I haven't any real tales of Rome to tell. Rome is an exhausting place - hot, humid, full of mosquitoes, art, nooks, crannies, sidestreets, beggars, trash, smoke, ambulances, random cardinals ducking into aforementioned sidestreets, smells, etc. It is, in short, a lot to take in - and so, I am waiting until the tourists to go away before taking most of it in. Where there are tourists, there are pickpockets. So, when I see a group of tourists I assume the characteristic "look" of native Italian women: purse your lips ever so slightly, look just a bit nettled about something, throw your shoulders back and look hawkish. That look works! Srsly - I've been mistaken as an Italian by Italians twice since I figured out that look. Win!

One of the things I didn't really expect about navigating a foreign country is that it is scary to ask for things - I've almost sat down and cried a couple of times because I've tried to do some very simple things, like ordering a meat at the butcher's, and encountered epic communication failures. People do not always make the effort to understand you and will stare at you blankly. Others will immediately grock that you're trying to communicate and will help you however they can.

You are completely vulnerable and that is a little scary.

That's all for now - ciao, ciao, ciao!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adjusting to Rome

I am in Rome!

My trip TO Rome was awful. I became quite ill on both legs of my flight - and the take-off of the plane from Philadelphia was extremely turbulent, horrid, and gross: the plane dropped (ahh!), rocked, and people swore and gasped, etc.

"So THIS is what I've gotten myself into," I thought, and regretted ever stepping on the plane.

But now I am here and Rome is quite interesting. I'm not going so far as to say "awesome" or "super-duper," yet, but it isn't as foreign as I expected it to be. Oh, sure, there's the whole "crossing the street" thing, weird labels on everything, forward men, different store practices, tourists galore, and a host of differences that I need to adjust to. Yet, in all, it's feel is similar to that of the Bay Area (San Francisco, in particular).

So far, I have been mistaken for French and Italian but not American (until I do something stupid like not printing the tag for vegetable/fruit purchases). Che fa complimenti!

I have also discovered that you don't need to stand in line for the General Papal Audiences. The Swiss Guard, you see, don't mind letting the individual here and there in - particularly, I think, if they're pretty young women. While many forlorn tourists thronged behind the area reserved for the general audience, I and another girl approached the Swiss Guard and tried charm. And lo - we got within 15 feet of the Pope.

Sadly, I have no very good pictures because this persistent man in front of me, wearing a blue shirt, insisted on standing on his chair and obscuring every view and shot that he could... So I have shots of a blue shirt as this man heroically threw himself everywhere but where he should be. But I saw the Pope! And he has a very cute accent when he speaks in English.

Certain things are much easier than I thought they would be - so my apprehension is quite a bit lowered. Phew.

Ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Primer for applying to a Pontifical University

A gentleman asked me today about studying at ye olde Angelicum. My write-up of the process is here: http://givetongue.blogspot.com/2009/08/primer-for-applying-to-pontifical.html

In 24 hours, I will be departing Berkeley for life abroad in Rome...

What was I thinking!?

I feel like chickening out at the last moment and saying "Ha hah!!!!! PSYCHE!!!!" after hiding all of my documentation that clearly indicates this is no psyche.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When I tell Good Catholic Folk my age that I went to (le gaspe!) UC Berkeley, I usually get the question "... .. . how was it?"

You see, my alma mater gives me quite the disreputable air. I've noticed this doesn't seem to happen to Catholics who went to MIT, Stanford, etc. - let alone a Catholic University, however much or little Catholic in actuality they are. It's just Berkeley. Or maybe it's just me? *sigh* *sigh*

Ok, ok, so there's the occasional nuddie protest at my college and smelly tree-sitters with names like "dumpster-muffin" give us a bad name, but really, what are you Good Catholic Folk supposing I did over my college years? You see, after Good Catholic Folk my age learn of my alma mater, a sudden quiet falls, and then the inevitable questions - "Soooo.... *cough* Read any good books by Thomas Aquinas, recently?" or "(inching away) Er...What are your thoughts on women priests?" and if you say you favor premarital interdigitation you'll get QUITE the raised eyebrow because it sounds too appalling.

These questions come across as:"HELLLOOOO!?!?!? R U CATOLIC!?!?!"

Why, yes. Yes I am. Why couldn't you just...you know...share a pint with me or something like that? Then you'd find out how Catholic I was. Why do you have to be ALL WEIRD?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Okie dokie.

Ben & Jerry boycott initiated. Hmm. Not that I ate their ice-cream, before - I love Häagen-Dazs.

People are more interested in being politically correct than ontologically correct.

Monday, August 31, 2009

= / =

A lot of people running around in the world think swing looks like this:



Well... It sorta looks like that. It's more like this:



And this:

Disney bought Marvel

First they came for the childhood classics.

Then they came for the video rights from Studio Ghibli's non-internationally publicized films.

Then they came for Pixar.

Then they came for Marvel.

Then there was no one left, when they came for me.

--------------------------

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lady's Reward


I can't help but love the poetess Dorothy Parker - she is exquisitely cynical, but her lyrics betray that she is an actual romantic searching for love and truth even if all her efforts to find those things are frustrated. And that's what many people are after (love and truth) - we just don't all admit when we've found them and call them by other, ugly names.








The Lady's Reward
Lady, lady, never start
Conversation toward your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never serious be, nor true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.

Tutta su Eva



Some friends have been "OH WOW! WHAT'S THAT?" when this gets its turn on my playlist. So, for your enjoyment!

Carmen Consoli is an Italian cantautrice (singer-songwriter), who has a lovely, lovely, voice and delivery. My grasp of Italian isn't such that the nuances of her lyrics are caught, but Eva (Eve) is defending herself in this song and swearing before God and her mother that she has not the fault and was not the landlady of her senses when she did wot she did.

This is also a pretty song:

Well-Heeled


Italians - they do the whole "shoe" thing quite nicely, and take it quite seriously, so I bought two pairs of high-heels and am breaking them in so that I will not be laughed out of house and Rome, come late September. Lo! What a difference heels make in how people perceive you. Not only are you suddenly two inches taller, but you also gain poise, instant elegance, and age - at least, in the eyes of men. It's quite flattering when men stop to stare and you know you're dressed in a totally, rockingly modest way with shoes. Italians - you have got something good going on there. Don't stop. I love it. Kiss kiss.



Yesterday, a professor-friend was reading aloud from a Catholic medieval penitentiary book to some student-friends. It was hilarious - though many forbidden acts requiring penance involved vomit, animals, and R-rated material (tsk tsk). But I would just like to share a few things from it:

Mothers: if, for the sake of curing a fever, you put your daughter in the oven OR on a roof, you shall do penance for 7 years! ... .. .

Cooks: according to the book, if a weasel falls in liquid and drowns then you are to throw the liquid out - and if you feed that liquid to others, three fasts are laid upon you! If, on the other hand, the weasel is still alive, you take the weasel for food and sprinkle the liquid with holy water and use it if you need to.

This seemed to be the general rule: animal falls in your food? Check! Is it alive? Yes. Eat it. And sprinkle the food/liquid it was in with holy water. (Did they have holy water dispensers akin to salt and pepper shakers, I wonder?). Is it dead? Yes. Throw everything away. Don't feed anything to anyone. 'cause that's just...ew.

Would-be-thieves: know that if you, by stealth, steal a monk (?!??!), you shall do penance for 7 years. (And if you steal them in public?)

You can read more fun tidbits here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Primer for Applying to a Pontifical University in Rome

If you commit yourself to studying at a Pontifical University in Italy, you need to be cRaZy!

First step - you find lodging in Rome and commit to a lease. You say "What you say!?" because you have, cleverly, noticed that at this stage you have Not Been Accepted to your university of choice, that you have no way of knowing whether any of the apartments you've idly been looking up on craigslist are any good, whether the landlady (padrona) is nice, whether your roommates will be nice, etc. Why! You might not even know Italian! I didn't - so I networked with round-eyes (*cough*) I trusted and found something after a few months. I still don't know if my roommates are cool people - I don't even know their names. But, I'm sure they're nice ladies, for my padrona rents to women attending Pontifical Universities (PU's aren't noted for drawing thuggish folks), but they might be quite, quite boring. Their idea of a shockingly fun Friday evening might be playing Candyland and drinking herbal teas...before....a....PILLOWFIGHT!!!

Bleeeeeehhhhhh.....Bleh. Bleh.

Now - get a copy of your landlord's national ID card and get him to fill out a letter of invitation (available here). ***!!!!This is important!!!!*** You can't get a study visa without these documents. Srsly. I found out the hard way. Not all Italian consulate websites give detailed instructions as to what you need for a visa - it's just sort of assumed you'd know - and the national id bit was one of the documents that was not listed in my consulate's 14 page document concerning visa requirements. "La la la!," I said. "Here are my documents." "Young lady, do you know where your landlady's national id card is!?" "Oops," I said, outloud. Inside I said "@!#$%%^&%$#@!#$," only in a very ladylike and proper manner.

NEXT: I hope you're friends with your pastor. Your pastor needs to recommend you to the local ordinary (bishop)* who will write you a letter of recommendation (if you're good), and sign your declarations of sustenance (this "declaration of sustenance" bit is explained, quite nicely, here). Make this entire process as simple as possible for the bishop and your pastor. Send your pastor information that the bishop can use in your letter of recommendation: your academic standing, level of education, involvement with the diocese, etc. That information will likely constitute the letter that the bishop writes - and if you can add in awesome things that give you instant Catholic Street Cred, then do that! If, for example, you run a discussion group on Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, or started a local chapter of the Lepanto League, etc., that's the right sort of stuff to send - in an email/letter - to your pastor.

Once you've placed a request with your pastor, get in touch with your bishop or his secretary. Let him know the pastor's recommendation is coming and that you are sending him (the bishop) your declarations of sustenance and a self-addressed and stamped envelope. So - your bishop gets your declarations of sustenance (and, I'd suggest, supporting documentation to show your finances are as you state them), your pastor's recommendation, and your return envelope. That makes it *very easy* for him to compose a letter of recommendation, sign everything, and send everything back in a timely manner.

Now - get the bishop's signature verified by the Apostolic Nuncio. That sounds like a scary process (at least, it did to me), but it's really simple and quick. I found the address for the Nuncio here. You don't need to send any supporting documents (though you can), but you do need to send a return envelope with postage and an explanatory letter stating your intentions, which signatures need to be verified and where. Remember: MAKE THIS SIMPLE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE FOR OTHERS. Don't force people to do the work - do it for them, and they will sweetly send it back to you, delighted and charmed. I even got a nice little card thing with the "compliments of the Apostolic Nuncio" - kawaiiiii!

Next, send letter of recommendation, declaration of sustenance, a copy of your passport (make sure it's legible, because if a university accepts you they send a letter with your passport number in it that you need to get a study visa), original study transcripts, etc., etc. DO send all documents before August, 'cause, you know, Italians take their vacations quite seriously and they need to send you a letter of acceptance. DO get in touch with the dean of the department you're trying to study in - introduce yourself, let him know the documents are on the way, etc.

Ok. Here's the tough part - the study visa. Dun dun duuuun.

Assuming the University sent you a letter (not a fax - a letter) of acceptance, in order to get a study visa (at the SF Consulate), you need**:

  • your driver's license

  • a copy of your driver's license

  • your passport

  • a copy of your passport

  • your visa application (available here) -- !!!! with a passport sized photo glued in the upper-right corner of the app

  • a copy of your passport

  • affidavit of health insurance (I bought mine here)

  • copy of affidavit of health insurance (they take the original, so it's best to have a copy for your own records)

  • bank statements indicating you have not less than $900/month for your planned length of stay***

  • signed letters, on letterhead, from your financial institutions stating the amount you have in your account (this is just bureaucracy - I totally had these signed letters and the consulate-worker simply discarded them!)

  • copy of letters (some consulates will also ask for these)

  • your declaration of sustenance****

  • a letter from your employer (if employed) stating you're making monies (if you are) -- they liked this at the Italian consulate, 'cause it showed I was serious and had an income

  • original letter of acceptance from your university

  • copy of letter of acceptance

  • airplane reservations *to* Italy (it's not necessary to have roundtrip reservations)

  • the letter of invitation from your landlord (keep a copy for yourself)

  • a copy of your landlord's national id

Arrange *everything* in the order they ask for (you will, hopefully, see directions for the correct ordering of documents pasted on the consulate building), be sure you have copies of *everything*, and, if you want the consulate to mail your passport back to you, bring a self-addressed and stamped envelope. If you are missing one document, the consulate will turn you away. If your documents are out of order, they will tell you to put them in order before coming back to the window (if your consulate doesn't take appointments) and it's a toss-up as to whether they'll let you jump to the head of the line or tell you to wait at the back. DON'T provide too many documents (for example, copies of your affidavit of health insurance, plane reservations, etc., but have them handy, in case, because the consulate has the right to demand more documents than they ask for on their website) because the people working at the consulate have to go through lots of documents in a very short time and it irritates them to have to sift through stuff for you. DO be exceedingly polite. DON'T arrive at the consulate late if your consulate does not give appointments. DO make sure the dates on your financial documents are clearly visible and recent.

Hopefully, the consulate workers will like you and accept your application for a visa and everything will be smooth sailing for you! If not, try again, and again, and again.

This is information based off of my own recent experience as of 2009 - my experience was a horrible, horrible one, but I got it done in 8 months. Apparently, the norm for completing this process is more like 12 to 18 months.

*Your bishop may not need this. Mine did, however, request a recommendation from my pastor so if you want to speed things up, this can help.
** Check with your local consulate - the documents required VARY from consulate to consulate.
*** Again, this varies from consulate to consulate.
**** My consulate threw this out, along with the letters from my financial institutions. "What IS this!?!?!" the consulate worker asked. Le sigh. But it's best to bring, just in case, because some consulates do like 'em, maybe.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"It's like somebody cracked open Etsy and this fell out," my brother-in-law posted to his Facebook wall.

Too true.

I learned a new proverb! It goes: "donne pelose donne virtuose." This translates to "Hairy women (implicit "=") virtuous women. It's important to pronounce it "donnE pelosE," for loose pronunciation could render it "Donna Pelosi, donna virtuose," which, considering the career path of Nancy Pelosi, might cause some confusion to Catholics fluent in Italian and American Politics.

A word to the unlearned: if you're trying to learn Italian, *think Canadian*. The "e" sound similar to the Canadian "Eeeeeh you hoser," only with less exaggeration. Naturally, this similarity constantly tempts me, in class, to exploit this wonderful similitude.

But I shall behave.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Catholics are Attacking



Every Catholic should know and love the great song that is "The Catholics are Attacking" by Pop-O-Pies (scroll down for link to streaming audio).

It is to die for.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Medium: Comics, Web


Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.
-Flannery O'Connor
For webcomics I follow the principle: if the first 10 pages don't snag the imagination, do thou it eschew. Many are the webcomics I've eschewed. You can tell a lot about a comic in the first 10 pages. Is the heroine a princess from a war-wracked planet, who was hidden on earth during infancy and is ignorant of her lineage? Check. Throw away. Is the hero a fumbling knight/hero who has yet to soar to his true potential but is dogged by a bazillion girls with skillz and a sarcastic exterior but a warm chocolaty center? Check. Throw it away. OMG. IS IT UTTERLY KAWAAAAAIIIIII!?!?!?!?! Or does it involve a humble girl suddenly befriended by POWERFUL BEINGS?!?!?! Maybe even...ALIENS!?!?! Caught in a LIFE OR DEATH STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL!!?!?!!?

Throw. Away. Sheesh.

It's sad, but there are about 3-20 good webcomics per 200 bad ones (and by "bad" I don't mean the work of an immature artist/writer, but bad in terms of plot and character - XKCD has stick-figures, but it's still a good comic) and finding the good ones can be depressing. So, I've done the job for you!

Here are some webcomics worth checking out:

Dr. McNinja - pure awesome.
Hark! A Vagrant! - also pure awesome. With history.
Lackadaisy Cats - truly brilliant.
Star Drop - also truly brilliant
Girl Genius - steampunk, girl-genius, etc.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is it just me who gets the abbreviations OFM and OMF mixed up, occasionally?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

HARDCORE

Blooooaarrrrgghhhh!

I'm not ignoring my blog - no.

I AM working 25+ hours a week and taking a language intensive (the equivalent of two years of language in 10 weeks) at Cal.

INTENSE!

Now (7:30am on a Saturday) I shall wake up an prepare for: choir, Mass, a 90lb pig-roast, homework, and a dance!

La la la.

-D

P.s. I think people should be saner and have more Irish accents.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I'm the Miyazaki Type

This experience be from a bit back - but I just saw that I never published it. Oops.

While purchasing a sci-fi novel (by John C. Wright), I had a rather odd exchange with the checker - an Asian fellow, long-hair (need I say it was black?), à la hippie. Without any preliminary pleasantries (such as "Hi! I can check you out here.") he opened abruptly with:

Him: Have you watched any Miyazaki films?
Me: Yes. (???)
Him: Howl's Moving Castle?
Me: Yeeeeah - my family was into Miyazaki before his works became widely available in the US.
Him (almost severely): You're the type that would enjoy it.
Me: ... er.
Him: *silence*

Is being the Miyazaki-type akin to being "that-guy"? You know, that guy? Is there a social stigma associated with Miyazaki? Waaah!


In other news - I have a new Masshat! It is black and fetching. Now I can totally go to OF Masses that aren't celebrated according to the GIRM and SHOW THEM WHO'S PIOUS!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On Seducement During Dinner

From Tom Jones:
'Say then, ye Graces! you that inhabit the heavenly mansions of Seraphina's countenance; for you are truly divine, are always in her presence, and well know all the arts of charming; say what were the weapons now used to captivate the heart of Mr. Jones.'

'First, from two lovely blue eyes, whose bright orbs flashed lightning at their discharge, flew forth two pointed ogles; but happily for our heroe, hit only a vast piece of beef which he was then conveying into his plate, and harmless spent their force. The fair warrior perceived their miscarriage, and immediately from her fair bosom drew forth a deadly sigh. A sigh which none could have heard unmoved, and which was sufficient at once to have swept off a dozen beaus; so soft, so sweet, so tender, that the insinuating air must have found its subtle way to the heart of our heroe, had it not luckily been driven from his ears by the coarse bubbling of some bottled ale, which at that time he was pouring forth. Many other weapons did she assay; but the god of eating (if there be any such deity, for I do not confidently assert it) preserved his votary; or perhaps it may not me dignus vindice nodus, and the present security of Jones may be accounted for by natural means; for as love frequently preserves from attacks of hunger, so may hunger possibly, in some cases, defend us against love.'

Friday, May 29, 2009

Let's Get Metaphysical

Ever wondered...exactly how to approach that shy - but absolutely gorgeous - philosophy major? Get metaphysical with them!

1. Has anyone ever told you you're a supernatural existential?
2. Babe, I'd break the law of non-contradiction for you.
3. You must be transcendental because you don't belong to any category.
4. Can I participate in your being?
5. You should be tired. You've been running through my conceptual apparatus as a cognitional being all day!
6. Honey, can I be the efficient cause of your happiness?
7. My web of intelligibility sure did a number on you!
8. Baby, can I proposition you, that is join our terms together by means of a copula?

Disclaimer: These are not of my doing - mah friends came up with these and I preserved them for posterity.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Satire

As a Rodevacantist, I echo William Shatner's statement that "Gene Rodenberry created the Star Trek of the ages," and that any change is obviously the result of directors and writers who no longer have the inspiration and guidance of the Rodenberry spirit. Any change is inorganic. All change is inorganic. This Novus Trek is an abomination and I - and those few who have not drunk the Targ-aid - will show you JUST WHY THIS IS SO.

After the death of Gene Rodenberry, Jews, Freemasons, Protestants, and Communists influenced the creation of the abomination "Star Trek XI." Many people welcomed this "New" Star Trek, saying it was more "accessible" to non-Geeks and encouraged a spirit of dialogue. Puh-lease. The beauty of Star Trek lies in its mystery and not in its comprehensibility. Why else do you think Chancellor Gorkon, in Star Trek VI, said "You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon"? Do you understand Klingon? No. Do *I*? No! Ergo - mystery. QED.

And if you WANT to understand Star Trek, you're WRONG to want that - and I bet you're a bad mother/father, too, if not a closet homosexual.

So I - and a few others who keep the Trek Tradition - maintain that this new formulation of Star Trek differs so drastically from the Star Trek of Gene Rodenberry as to be positively harmful to the Trekkie or Trekker. Was this New Trek an organic development? No! It was a shocking hermeneutic of discontinuity: a rupture with all we held dear, a NEW TREK. Where are the transporter beaming noises of old? Why does Scotty have a real Glasgow accent, rather than his heavy fake Scottish brogue? Why does Spock show so much emotion in Star Trek XI? Why is there no sacrificial aspect? Why do you see "Trekkies" attending New Trek in SHORTS - without any respect for the Mysterium of Star Trek?

Shocking, isn't it? Maybe those "phaser smells and bells" might not seem too important to you - or maybe the "Captain's Log, Stardate..." before the episode don't seem "necessary" - but without those things, is it really...Star Trek? Can it really...engage us?

That is the question many Trekkies have had to ask themselves.

When the Novus Disorder Star Trek was released, many Trekkies were bewildered by the changes. Hollywood executives (again, Jews) ruthlessly stripped old traditions of their meaning and implemented radical innovations. You see, JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are secretly working to undermine the teachings of the one, true, Gene Rodenberry. Gene Rodenberry was sublimely dedicated to the preservation of traditions: the clichéd scenes, the utilization of exotic and scantily clad women, the Prime Directive, etc. But Novus Ordo Trekkies believe in "religious freedom." Its women wear pants and go to the "Academy" - they even enter into "careers" and display initiative! In the Traditional Star Trek, you never saw a respectable Star Fleet Woman without an impossibly short miniskirt, unless she were in another impossibly revealing costume, and the women always assumed highly feminine and monotonous roles! Degeneration of society, anyone?

Many Trekkies left - disillusioned. Trekkie clubs which used to be packed are now...empty. Maybe those Trekkies had undergone the horror of seeing Clown-Star-Trek. We may never know just how many were lost. Thankfully, I am a Rodevacantist. I am not lost.

But welcome to the Novus Ordo Star Trek! A place where "No One," and not "No Man," has gone before.

And so what if the body of science fiction authors have hailed this Novus Ordo Star Trek as a legitimate and valid part of the Star Trek Legacy? Do you think the authority to interpret what is and is not the Star Trek legacy lies with *them*? On the contrary, it lies with Traditional Star Trek fans. If we don't like it, it is not a part of Tradition (with a CAPITAL T).

A reader, alive to this abomination, pointed out the following:

As you can see from the pictures, True Nimoy has heavily hooded small eyes, a narrow nose, and small earlobes.

Imposter "Nimoy" has wide eyes that appear not to have a hooded appearance, a large, drooping nose, and large earlobes.

Quote from Imposter "Nimoy":
"Canon is only important to certain people because they have to cling to their knowledge of the minutiae. Open your mind! Be a 'Star Trek' fan and open your mind and say, 'Where does Star Trek want to take me now'."

Quote from True Nimoy:
"It was a nothing role with just a few lines for Spock to 'pass the torch' to the new cast. I wasn't interested in that... as far as I was concerned, Spock had a grand exit in 'Star Trek VI' and I didn't want to disrespect that in any way." (on being invited to appear in 'Star Trek, Generations'. True Nimoy, obviously, would not appear in NewTrek.)
I'd like to end by asking: what about the third secret of the Andorian Peace Treaty that was never released, eh?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Speaking of Which.

Since it was just the feast of St. Athanasius, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes of his, in a letter to Marcellinus on the Psalms:
...Holy Scripture is not designed to tickle the aesthetic palate, and it is rather for the soul's own profit that the Psalms are sung. This is so chiefly for two reasons. In the first place, it is fitting that the sacred writings should praise God in poetry as well as prose, because the freer, less restricted form of verse, in which the Psalms together with the Canticles and Odes, are cast, ensures that by them men should express their love to God with all the strength and power they possess. And, secondly, the reason lies in the unifying effect which chanting the Psalms has upon the singer. For to sing the Psalms demands such concentration of a man's whole being on them that, in doing it, his usual disharmony of mind and corresponding bodily confusion is resolved, just as the notes of several flutes are brought by harmony to one effect; and he is thus no longer to be found thinking good and doing evil, as Pilate did when, though saying "I find no cause of death in Him," he yet allowed the Jews to have their way; nor desiring evil though unable to achieve it, as did the elders in their sin against Susanna - or, for that matter, as does any man who abstains from one sin and yet desires another every bit as bad. And it is in order that the melody may thus express our inner spiritual harmony, just as the words voice our thoughts, that the Lord Himself has ordained that the Psalms are to be sung and recited to a chant...those who do sing as I have indicated, so that the melody of the words springs naturally from the rhythm of the soul and her own union with the Spirit, they sing with the tongue and with the understanding also, and greatly benefit not themselves alone but also those who want to listen to them."
I really love the philosophy and theology behind art - and, being in a choir, really appreciate Athanasius' take on the relation between the soul and the song.

Who Will Save Your Soul?

If you've ever read Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, you instantly grock that the author truly loves the character of his excessively virile, flawed, and young protagonist: Tom Jones. Tom commits many shocking indiscretions and easily gets into bed with women whilst being deeply devoted to another who is the paragon of virtue, delicacy, and beauty. The author, anticipating our censure, makes a plea for Tom: he's flawed, yes, but he is also a man of good-will, capable of appreciating, striving for, and attaining virtue. Don't, Fielding begs, conflate *a* defining moment of a life - or even several "a"s - with "the" defining moment of our life. That is, with the moment of death. Most people habitually commit sins - some quite serious ones - and most people would not like to be judged solely by the worst sin they committed or by what the world sees and makes of that sin.

And yet, many people, in a fit of righteousness, use one defining moment/act as the defining moment/act of that person's life - on both a social and a moral level - when it comes to transgressions. The internet is rather devilishly misused to work that righteousness up to an unreflective frenzy (see the Christopher West eruption, for example). All one seems to hear about - even on Catholic blogs - is SCANDAL, SCANDAL, SCANDAL! Then follows the public hue and cry. Outrage! Shock!

Such a state of existence can be useful, if and when an object/act merits such a strong response, but it seems that when everyone is in such a state of hyper-agitation it is dangerously easy to jump from a moment to the moment, or to too hastily jump from a moderate to a nuclear sort of option (which isn't to say I dislike using nuclear options - in Sid Mier's Civ II, I often enabled the cheats and did just that. So long, Mongol hordes!).

Shame - or the idea of shame - is used to make people behave. It works, sometimes. When a radio dj messes up, or embarrassing pictures of a beauty queen emerge, or news of a cheating politician gets about, the common response of the offender - after the public has got wind of the offense - is to say: I am sorry - I regret what I did. Is this a success? Well, as Athanasius points out, one gets a very definite sense that they are not sorry for the act but that they are sorry they got caught and they regret the effect it will have on their career.

And why? What that radio dj said might be objectively really shocking. He will be remembered and judged in the minds of many people as 'that person who said X.." But there floats about an Ayer-like conception of good and evil which, roughly, equates "good" and "bad" with purely personal-value-driven-expressive-response. So saying "X is bad" equates to "@#%$^^ X!!!" These expressive statements cannot - *cannot* - be good or bad and certainly cannot be universal (de gustibus...).

Naturally, this touches upon the question of what it means to be human. If good and evil are driven by personal values, then my good is determined solely by myself - or by an other's utilization of myself for their own value-driven-conception of goodness (i.e. I might be used as a slave - I'd be useful then, and valued as such). A being's goodness, and a being's acts, are not intrinsically/objectively good or evil. Therefore, we are not capable of virtue or vice, of redemption or damnation, of repentance.

That doesn't jive with reality, and yet - or maybe "and so" - there is this morbid urge to damn those who gain notoriety by stepping outside of arbitrary demarcations (formally endorsed by law) determined by personal values. Damn the undamnable? Shame the shameless? Why? It seems like a form of mutilated hope for redemption. Saying something matters is better to say that nothing matters - a very tenuous grip on reality is held. And if someone else is being damned then at least I'm not, because I didn't do that.

I entirely agree with Athanasius that people who are shocked (along with those who are not) by the bad behavior of those in the public sphere have created the culture in which that behavior can thrive. However, I place a different interpretation on the use of shame: it's not really shame that moves a politician to express regret -- it's fear. When motivated by shame, it is because there is something that we are *ashamed of*: we recognize our acts/words as shameful. But there is an attempt going on to shame that politician (because we don't want to say that nothing matters) and it is an attempt that really finds no corresponding notion of redemption: of Christ.

And that really isn't very pleasant. Without Christ at the center of the universe, history, reality (I paraphrase the beginning words of Pope John Paul the Great's first encyclical), how can we look at another human being and say they are capable of repentance? How can we look at them and say "you are good," if we cannot say that their being is good because it is created in the image and likeness of God?

To some extent, Henry Fielding is not making a plea solely for Tom Jones, but for all of humanity - saying that we are all capable of being redeemed because we are all Tom Jones to a certain extent.

I close with a quote from Graham Greene (from The End of the Affair - the speaker is in a Church):

I was trying to escape from the human body and all it needed. I thought I could believe in some kind of God that bore no relation to ourselves, something vague, amorphous, cosmic, to which I had promised something and which had given me something in return - stretching out of the vague into the concrete human life, like a powerful vapour - I would escape myself forever...I had done so much injury with this body. How could I want to preserve any of it for eternity, and suddenly I remembered a phrase of Richard's - about human beings inventing doctrines to satisfy their desires, and I thought how wrong he is. If I were to invent a doctrine it would be that the body was never born again, that it rotted with last year's vermin...Then I began to want my body that I hated, but only because it could love that scar. We can love with our minds, but can we love only with our minds? Love extends itself all the time, so that we can even love with our senseless nails: we love even with our clothes, so that a sleeve can find a sleeve.
If you have a copy of the End of the Affair, I highly recommend finding this passage and reading it in its entirety - Greene is a profound writer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the Philosophy of Dance

Last Tuesday, I gave a lecture at _____ on the philosophy of dance. This post expands on the ideas expressed there. Language Advisory – I use the word “ass” multiple times. Here goes!

* * *

Something is better than nothing. Most people accept this simple fact (except for those few silly-bunnies who say - "well, supposing *I* don't think that," which, essentially, is questioning the goodness of their own existence). From this it follows that you and I are better than nothing, and that the entire cosmos is, at least in some sense, better than nothing. Or, in other words, it's all good ("it" being "existence"), or at least it's all better than nothing—because it is something.

Why does that matter?

A number of people assert that social dancing makes them feel good. They retire to their cozy beds at 2am in the morning, sometimes after quaffing copious amounts of water (or a martini, in my case - be classy!), feeling oddly and transiently validated. There *is* the fact that exercise produces endorphins which make for good moods - but that doesn't explain the feeling of rejection and invalidation when you’re turned down for a dance for reasons other than injury, fatigue, or simply being otherwise engaged. What bites is not that someone didn’t want to dance but that someone did not want to dance *with you*. Ouch. That could be due to many reasons - you might have forgotten to brush your teeth after eating a baguette positively dripping with baked garlic and brie (able to drop a person at twenty yards!). Or it might just be… you. Ooo. What a terrifying thought!

That reminds me of a mortifying experience in Kindergarten – we were playing the Farmer in the Dell. Oh how excited I was! This was a new, fun game! The people who were picked were assigned a special status – so cool – and of course I’d be picked! … Naturally, I was the cheese. The sky darkened, my classmates’ fingers became hideously elongated as they pointed at the cheese in the corner which they cavorted around as they sang the dirge “the cheese stands alone.” “The Cheese Stands Alone” – what a frightful thing! Even my friends, who I had –er- empowered against the school bully by teaching them to mock her block structures, hadn’t picked me!

Was I not pretty enough?

Social dance, I’d posit, provokes an opposite of that feeling of isolation and abandonment. It does not make us feel good simply because exercise produces endorphins but because it is a fundamentally life-affirming recreation/art: one must affirm, even if only subconsciously, not only the existence of another person, but the goodness of that other person’s existence, and not in a general and disembodied sense but you, body and soul or mind and body (and it seems to me that “mind” is understood in much the same way that a soul is).

Nietzsche once wrote, "To have joy in anything, one must approve everything." In a sense, that's quite true. In order to take joy in something you must approve of its existence - and not just its existence, but (now I'll sound like Heidegger) the totality/universality of existence. A human being does not exist in a void. There are *so many* causes/pre-conditions/etc. that go into a person being there before you, and the reason for those causes span space, time, and even transcend them. Sure, a being may exist in imperfect circumstances, but that does not mean that their being is not good or that the world they exist in and which makes possible their existence is not good. In spite of any adverse circumstances we find ourselves in, existence is good.

We don't often think of these things when we look at another human being. But that doesn't mean they're not there. Dancing is a way of affirming and delighting in the goodness of being. I have to be and you have to be before we can dance and create beauty. I have to – even subconsciously – say it is better for me to dance with *you* than for me to not dance with you (and vice versa). We make these affirmations or denials on a prosaic level everyday – that it is better to eat healthy food than unhealthy food; that it is better to go to work than to not go to work, etc. Why eat healthy food if it isn’t good for you? Why go to work if not going to work is just as fine? Why dance – which serves no purpose, really – unless it is better to create beauty?

The dancer does not dance "for the sake of” some other purpose, at least, not when he has beauty as the object of the dance which can elevate dance to the level of a fine art as opposed to a recreation or technique. And I am not saying that dance is an art because it is beautiful – many things are beautiful – but that dance has beauty as its object: beauty for the sake of beauty. That is why the person who dances "in order to be admired on the dance floor and get grrls" may certainly be called a Bad Dancer. He has taken an art and subverted it for other purposes. What a nasty man!

Social dancing, which involves two or more people, is, therefore, the co-creation of beauty. A fleeting relationship is struck up on the dance-floor with other dancers and that relationship is intimate, trusting, and obliging - even self-effacing. Intimate, at least in swing-dancing, because it is typically a relationship between two people. Trusting because no one *knows* what a lead or follow will do but each assumes the other will act with good will and not abuse their trust by dropping the follow or making the lead look like an ass and other such things. Obliging and self-effacing because the good dancer seeks harmony and unity – even when a partner is given space to do their own thing, it is done within the context of the partnership of the dance: the lead or the follow have to open up/relinquish that space. In many respects, a social dance has the same cadences and rhythms that a good conversation has – you give people space to have their say, you expand on themes, you pun, you play, but not at the expense of the other person. If you set yourself up in opposition to your partner, the resulting effect in dance is akin to a choir that has many strident singers trying to out-do one another. Horrid!

Speaking of social mores in conversation – show me an anarchist and I’ll show you a bad dancer. Dancing is a creation of a beauty that comes about through order. Dancing is not simply spasming across the floor – one is conforming/ordering movements to a pattern in one’s mind, much like a painter attempts to conform the image he puts to canvas to an idea within his mind. Swing-dancing makes use of patterns. There is the Swing-Out, the Charleston, the Scissor Kicks, the Shorty-George, &c. We are not constrained by these patterns in the sense that they impinge upon our freedom of movement - they're more like building blocks, or analogous to musical notation within a song that tell us how to order sound. Only, instead of an arrangement of sound you have an arrangement of movement (usually to sound). Yet we do not all express these patterns in the same way.

The instrument or material of dance is the body, just as a sculptor has his marble and the musician his violin. Each body has unique physical capabilities and limitations…Perhaps one has sculpted abs! Each person, then, will order the movement of their body in similar but distinct ways when following a pattern. Sometimes we cannot order our movements as we wish because we do not have the right physique, do not know the pattern, or haven’t practiced moving our body in that way for long enough. To learn how to order movement requires practice. Practice sometimes entail bodily injury either because we are unaccustomed to perform certain movements or…for other reasons. F’r’instance: I was practicing my Scissor Kicks, yesterday, when my brother walked in and told me it wasn’t the 30’s or 40’s anymore and took up a semi-Kung-Fu stance. I promptly and playfully kicked him in the shin. He retaliated by socking me in the head. That is the price I pay for practicing.

Because dancing consists in an imposition of forms upon our natural movements, we are also limited by our imagination, by how we think. Some follows just don’t think to do a Shorty-George when doing an underarm-turn. I know *I* never thought of that before someone demonstrated it. Then again, some people’s imaginations have stagnated or they don’t *think* in good ways – naturally, their dance reflects that.

Further, the personality and moods we have determine the expression of these patterns or which patterns we express. If I'm feeling playful, I'll express that in my dance. The Charleston can be done seriously. It can be done poorly. It can be done playfully. The observer can note the differences in these patterns by judging not just the technical execution, but the smaller details: where the hands are, the expression on the faces of the dancer, the synchronization of the move to the music, etc.

In social dancing, tall people dance with short people. Short people dance with short people. People with doctorates dance with plumbers. The co-creation of beauty through the ordering of movement contains an infinite number of beautiful possibilities

So far, I’ve said: dancing has beauty as its object and that beauty comes through a being’s ordering of natural movements. The ordering of one’s movements is constrained by the physical capabilities of the body which is the material of the dance and of the mind which orders the movement. Dancing is, also, fundamentally, a delighting in existence – in life, which is partly why we feel good when we dance. I have not said that all dances performed by people constitute a fine art, but that dancing can be elevated to a fine art (which I have not defined here but left rather vague) when it has beauty as its object and that it contains a number of the aspects mentioned above.

It is interesting to see that dance is, historically, part of a vast number of religious rituals, spans nations, and is linked in art or literature to something sacred or divine, to an affirmation of existence in some form or other. The great Italian poet Dante describes those in heaven as dancing – but there is no dancing in the Inferno, which is reserved for those who reject goodness, though there are people with hands linked who whirl across hot sands so as to avoid pain.

These are very preliminary thoughts on the philosophy of dance. I have relied on a very short chapter written by the French Philosopher Etienne Gilson for much of what I have written – he said what I said first, though differently. And Gilson, I think, gets certain things wrong in his analysis of dance because he implies, at one point, that dance often has as its object self-perfection, which I don’t agree with at all.

In any case, please don’t hurt me because of the disjointedness and crude reasoning!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Although this is a terribly wicked thing for me to think, given that such ladies are probably quite pious, more devoted to the Church, and holier than I: there should be a society for the prevention of old Church women who can't sing acting as the lead singers/cantors at Mass.

All ye in favor say "aye!"

It is a difficult and delicate thing, for some of these women were good singers and have given abundantly of their time and self to the Church. But...there comes a point at which it's not really fitting for them to continue, where the torch should be passed on.

'ist saying, is all.
Oh my good dear people,

I have been neglecting you - mea maxima culpa!

But you see, several things occurred that distracted me.

On the negative side, Oxford declined to accept me (on the basis of my grades, I do believe, which weren't perfect. But I maintain that grading is what you do to meat...or eggs). The evening I was rejected found me wielding a large knife. Chop! Chop! CHOP! I was making cheddar cheese soup for the fambly. My eyes were streaming (onions) and I was holding a beer because I'd lifted the self-imposed beer fast for a day. A friend wandered in and saw the beer, the tears, but not the onions. Thinking I was going off the deep-end, he drew me aside and delivered a gentle caution on my state. That was all sorted out eventually, however - don't worry! I'm fine and have a revenge plan - years from now, when I'm a glamorous and internationally renowned philosopher, when Oxford asks me to lecture &c., I shall, with lofty visage, shun them. That's right. They'll be SHUNNED!

HAH! Take THAT Oxford! (Le sigh...)

On the plus side, I went skiing gambling out-of-town and won Two Whole Dollars (which I promptly lent to a destitute sister). I Am A Winnah!

On the miscellanous side: I found this quote on Fr. Z's blog and thought it Quite Good:

I don’t know Father. From a historical stand point “terrible twos” might be better than adolescence.

I need some cheese to go with all this whine in the combox. I’m not saying the older form isn’t beautiful and I am fully aware that much was lost in the transition. But come on people, grow up some. ‘All the blame is with this new mass’ ‘Paul VI betrayed us all’ ‘the N.O. is the smoke of Satan’ ‘Judge by the fruits, see (insert favorite liturgical abuse canard here)’.

Look, as someone who grew up knowing only the Ordinary Form, this gets old fast. Was it boring and bland most of the time, yes. Do I wish that we could’ve had a sense of continuity and beauty, yes. Did I turn into some religiously indifferent modernist, hell no. And most of the catholics I know didn’t have that happen either. (And if we want to get into an argument about fruits, the Ordinary Form and the Second Vatican Council were fruits of the TLM! )

Strictest adherence to rubrics is not enough. Perfect memorization of catechisms is not enough. Incense, beautiful vestments, gorgeous churches, and trained scholae are not enough. If it were, then we wouldn’t have had anything changed. The people of the church are imperfect, as such we are always in need of reform (see St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Gregory the Great, etc…) And because the people are imperfect, the reforms are often imperfect. So we need to keep working at them. There is a lot that was abandoned that needs to be remembered and relearned, but that is par for the course in history.

Seriously, stop this mindless bashing of the Ordinary Form. There are many of us who grew up with it and are glad to see the changes in translation which better reflect the ancient Latin prayers, the resurgence of chant, and the general increased beauty of the Mass that comes from rediscovering and using our glorious patrimony. But the bitterness poisons these efforts. Those who do not understand why these things are important hear things like “Now here is an abortion i would have supported 40 years ago” and are completely turned off to the ideas of tradition.

St. Padre Pio said it is better to bear an injustice than to cause one. Widening the divisions with bitter rhetoric only causes a bigger injustice to the Body of Christ.

Baron Von Korf

Props to you, sir! I hope I am not still one of those bitter rhetoricians. I think I was, at one point (only in the opposite direction), but got better. Bitterness provokes bitterness. Light begets light. Love one another, y'all's!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why My Knickers Knot

The question has been posed: "Is it reasonable to ask the SSPX to accept *only* VII explicitly, and not the other councils of the Church? Hmm? Hmm?"

Well...

Yes.

The Second Vatican Council is - on their official website - contrasted with authentic Catholic teaching.

Further, I quote from that same page:

Our position must be:...we refuse ...to follow the Rome of neo-Modernist and neo-Protestant tendencies which became clearly manifest during the Second Vatican Council and, after the Council, in all the reforms which issued from it. (Declaration of Archbishop Lefebvre, APPENDIX I)

I find it rather unsettling that this question is even being asked. When an injustice is done, an act of reparation must be made. The SSPX states publicly that they reject the Second Vatican Council. Hence, it is not unreasonable to ask that corresponding public statements should be made to the effect that they - the SSPX - acknowledge and accept the Second Vatican Council as an authentic expression of Catholic Tradition - not as a sort of "nyah nyah! IN UR FACE!" humiliation, but as an act of justice.

It is not sufficient amends to say: "I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church...and all things implicit therein" if, in reality, you explicitly reject the teachings of the Catholic Church as promulgated by the Second Vatican Council and all that came from it - which teaching has been handed on by five successive pontiffs and the bishops teaching in communion with them. No amends would, in fact, be made were these two positions held simultaneously.

The judgment of the Church concerning the deposit of faith takes precedence over the private judgment of an individual, or even of groups of individuals. The judgment of the Church concerning the interpretation of expressions of Tradition is given by the reigning pontiff and those bishops teaching in communion with him. The assistance of the Holy Spirit was promised by Christ in the safeguarding of this deposit (and revelation in general, in both Scripture and Tradition) and the subsequent deepening of our understanding of it and its transmission (the Indefectibility of the Church). Hence, we have it on best authority that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council is authentic, good, and true because of that totality/unity. As such, our response should be a warm reception of its teachings as being a continuation of the Tradition of the Church - or, if not a warm reception, then we are at least obligated to maintain a docile obedience and refrain from public statements that detract from said council since it comes from a legitimate Authority above whom there is no other authority.

I know that the SSPX do not consider the Second Vatican Council to be part of the Magisterium of the Church because they judge it to be a break with Tradition - but such a judgment is outside an individual's purview.

So, the insistence on the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council is motivated, I think, primarily by the sense that if you reject the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council, then you are effectively rejecting the binding power of the Magisterium of the Church, and really and truly rejecting the Church in her totality. As we so often hear, you cannot be a faithful Catholic and pick and choose what you believe.

I'm not trying to be hard on "Traditionalists" (I consider myself a real Traditionalist in the sense that I am Catholic), nor am I trying to strike a sour note.

But one should not flippantly dismiss, however, the real and deep concerns over the implications that such an affirmation, qualified affirmation, or rejection of the Second Vatican Council holds regarding the unity and indefectibility of the Church.

The Church is one. The Church is holy. The Church is catholic. The Church is apostolic. This is the Church. This is our Faith. We are proud to profess it.

Addendum: An analogy occurs to me (and it may be faulty) - the Church's teaching against contraception has not been promulgated as an infallible dogma, ne? But it is infallible by virtue of the nature of human beings and the marital act. So, if group were to publicly *deny* this teaching and then state that they believed in the teachings of the Catholic Church and all things therein, we would be right to say "uh. Wait - you don't believe in this, and it is part of the Magisterium, so you have to recant."

Addendum II: I've noticed an equivocation going on between "an individual" and "a group." A group that makes an official statement is different from an individual in a public setting making a statement.

Monday, February 16, 2009

TRADITION!

Wot is it?

Discuss!

(Or leave my comment box sad and empty...**sniff** )

Addendum of Something Related:

Something to Keep in Mind: Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est.



"WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst."

Source

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Never Knew

It's a funny article because they forgot Galileo!

C'mon, guys - was it Galileo or Darwin who invented science?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Woe

There is a surfeit of bad news running around these days - and I don't want to write about it because it's simply depressing and makes me melancholy.

Instead: Puppies!

And food for thought.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tee Hee!

I'm propping up some books with Kant's Transcendental Idealism...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux

Egggghhh! Aggggh!! This film was creepy. Creeeeeepy.

I know Decent Films and American Papist gave it good reviews.

But, me? Paragon of good taste in movies? D- or even an F.

Why? Well - personal culpability is removed from the characters in this film, and I'm with Aristotle when he said (and I paraphrase) that we praise or blame men because we believe them to be responsible for their actions. Eliminate the blame, you eliminate the praise as well.

In our post-modern society, there is a fascination with the nature versus nurture question. Are we slaves of our genes? Of society? Of what we eat for breakfast? An interesting dynamic plays out in this film - everyone "knows" that, by nature, rats are X. But the film suggests that their nature is only X because that is what they have been nurtured to be: they are a product of their environment. Likewise with other main characters who do wicked things.

Hence, evil actions are the result of something hurtful in an environment that is the propels the characters to a hurtful (I use the term the movie uses) course of action. The king hurts the people, land, and animals. So what's a hurting animal to do but hurt others? It's not really their fault, afterall! And that creepy deranged maidservant who betrays the princess and locks her away in a dungeon? Well! The princess had - unintentionally - hurt her feelings. Whew. Glad those actions were explained and great to know that the maidservant was really good on the inside! That maidservant had me worried when she was menacing the princess with a butcher's knife! She was just hurting, you know.

For what it's worth: there is an element of truth in all this - actual sin can be traced back to original sin. But that doesn't mitigate our culpability. We don't sin because we were sinned against - we sin because...well...we want to (but not the good kind of nature-driven want).

But in the end, there are no bad guys. There are just hurting people. Such a view of the nature of sin is, I'd argue, highly contrary to reality and subversive to Church teachings. And, ironically, this renders any heroism on the part of Despereaux rather...flat. How can you be heroic in the face of evil if it isn't...evil? How can you be for truth and justice and honor if they're only helpful constructs that help you visualize the opposite of particular characteristics of the hurt-person? For the untruthful person is a product of something that's hurt him in his environment - likewise the unjust and the dishonorable. Now - Despereaux is a likable mouse, particularly in relief against the other characters, because he is courageous, honorable, etc. He is a hero! But within the film, that has no real meaning. So while HE is being a hero (in the viewer's eyes), he is not heroic according to the narrative.

Additionally, there is also something profoundly inverted about the nature of the world of Depereaux. I have no problem with anthropomorphizing animals - anthropormhize to your hearts content! I find it highly unsettling, however, that in the film the good Princess is in imminent danger of being devoured alive by sentient, rational, rats. Man is, by nature, a rational animal. The rats in the movie share that nature. Hence, the rats are men - small hairy men, yes, but men nontheless. In the natural order of things, man is above rats. Perhaps for that reason, the rat+trying-to-eat-princess scene Freaked Me The Heck Out. Granted, I'm squeamish and easily scared. But the inversion of the natural order (animals in power over man) compounded by the horror of rational beings wanting to consume the living flesh of another rational being? Eeegh! Aggh! Uggh! Then again, I suppose some might argue that ontological cannibalization really is kid's fare!

Note - this scene was not presented as a *good* situation. It was presented as a *very bad* situation. But it's a situation that I cannot conceive of as being appropriate for young children.

Oh. And ANOTHER thing! All throughout, there is mention made of how terrible it is to have your nature be a bad word, how we all act according to our natures, etc. While that's true, the language resonates with a hidden agenda: why be downers on the glbt lifestyle?

Finally, a comment was made in the beginning of the film about how soup day (a pivotal celebration in the movie) was much more important than Christmas - even though Christmas was STILL celebrated...Er...? While I very much doubt that this would leave an impression on a kid, it is nevertheless disquieting in light of how flawed the movie is.

Bottom line: don't watch it!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Though this may not be entirely ladylike: I challenge anyone who speaks ill of His Excellency Bp. Vigneron, former bishop of Oakland, to a duel.

D'oh! The Church looks down on dueling.

Ok - then to an exchange of wits!

But...if you're speaking ill of Bp. Vigneron, I'm not sure I'd want your wits.

This is all to say: I find it really appalling that people outside of the Oakland diocese are judging Bp. Vigneron to be a modernist because...our Cathedral is not too pretty and Bp. Vigneron is not Abp. Burke - who has a reputation of having a spine because of his method of doing things.

Because everyone knows there is only one way of having a spine, EVAR. Yup. Yup. And those who are distant and have not observed the changes in the diocese are in a better position to tell us we are SO T'EH SAME AND BAD. Yup. Yup.