Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fortnightly Books Index 2016

For a number of reasons -- a quick trip to Italy, scheduling of classes, and a few heft tomes -- this year was a bit lighter in terms of number of volumes. But the ones done were fairly substantive, and we had a bit of an Italian theme weaving in and out of the other works through much of the year, with Italian authors (Manzoni, Vasari, Eco twice), works involving trips to Italy (Innocents, Childe Harold), some Roman empire (Twelve Caesars, Helena), works about Italy (Romola, North from Rome), and works written in Italy (Prometheus Unbound, Marble Faun), among other things. But we also saw England, Scotland, Africa, the Philippines, the Holy Land, France, and Greece, so, despite the focus on Italy, it was still a well-traveled year.

December 4: Georgette Heyer, A Civil Contract
Introduction, Review

November 20: Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped
Introduction, Review

October 30: Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Introduction, Review

October 14: Nick Joaquin, Cave and Shadows; May Day Eve and Other Stories
Introduction, Review

October 2: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars
Introduction, Review

September 11: George Eliot, Romola
Introduction, Review

August 28: Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
Introduction, Review, Supplementary Timeline

August 14: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Introduction, Review

July 31: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun
Introduction, Review

July 3: Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Introduction, Review, Three Peculiar Pages

June 19: Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
Introduction, Review, Locus Focus, Supplementary Timeline

June 5: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
Introduction, Review

May 15: Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed
Introduction, Review, Supplementary Timeline

May 1: Sophocles, The Theban Plays of Sophocles
Introduction, Review

April 17: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
Introduction, Review

March 27: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes; Return of Tarzan
Introduction, Review

February 21: Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters
Introduction, Review

February 7: Evelyn Waugh, Helena
Introduction, Review

January 24: Honore de Balzac, The Wild Ass's Skin; The Quest for the Absolute
Introduction, Review

January 10: Helen MacInnes, North from Rome
Introduction, Review

Fortnightly Books Index 2015

Fortnightly Books Index 2014

Fortnightly Books Index 2012-2013

This Last Vigil of the Year

Old and New Year Ditties
by Christina Rossetti

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure-scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me blessèd spirits, who delight
All through the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Though I tarry wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray:
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Holy Family

The sea when it bore Him was still and calmed, and how came the lap of Joseph to bear Him? The womb of hell conceived Him and was burst open, and how did the womb of Mary contain Him? The stone that was over the grave He broke open by His might, and how could Mary's arm contain Him? You came to a low estate, that You might raise all to life! Glory be unto You from all that are quickened by You! Who is able to speak of the Son of the Hidden One who came down and clothed Himself with a Body in the womb? He came forth and sucked milk as a child, and among little children the Son of the Lord of all crept about. They saw Him as a little Child in the street, while there was dwelling in Him the Love of all. Visibly children surrounded Him in the street; secretly Angels surrounded Him in fear.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn 3 on the Nativity

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


With holiday matters going on, things are inevitably quiet around here. A few things:

* I bought my mother some Italian limoncello via Dolceterra, and had a very good experience with them. One of the bottles was broken in the mail, and they were quite expedient in handling the matter; excellent customer service.

* Two movies I've seen recently: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One. The first was fun; Dan Fogler's Kowalski was really the thing that made the movie.

Rogue One was also quite well done; more Star-Warsy than anything since the original three. The CGI did not always work well -- the Peter Cushing CGI sometimes looked plastic-like. I saw it the day Carrie Fisher died, having only just learned of her death; which made it interesting. Apparently her scenes were completely filmed for Episode VIII, so we will see her again. Fisher was very multi-talented; she was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood in the nineties, and always had a sober and sensible sense of humor.

* I recently marathoned through the excellent John Adams miniseries, with Paul Giamatti, so I have its striking opening title theme in my head.

Holy Innocents

And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod's madness blazes out into fruitless schemes. He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king removes from the world, Christ admits to heaven: and on those for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom.

St. Leo the Great, Sermon 31

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Accordingly, brethren, of these mountains was John also, who said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This mountain had received peace; he was contemplating the divinity of the Word. Of what sort was this mountain? How lofty? He had risen above all peaks of the earth, he had risen above all plains of the sky, he had risen above all heights of the stars, he had risen above all choirs and legions of the angels. For unless he rose above all those things which were created, he would not arrive at Him by whom all things were made.

St. Augustine, Tractate 1 on the Gospel of John

Monday, December 26, 2016

First Champion of Martyrs

Let Stephen be killed, the Church of Jerusalem dispersed in confusion: out of it go forth burning brands, and spread themselves and spread their flame. For in the Church of Jerusalem, as it were burning brands were set on fire by the Holy Spirit, when they had all one soul, and one heart to God-ward. When Stephen was stoned, that pile suffered persecution: the brands were dispersed, and the world was set on fire.

St. Augustine, Sermon 66 on the New Testament

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Day by Day Holier

A Christmas Carol
by Christina Rossetti

The Shepherds had an Angel,
The Wise Men had a star,
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are? –

Lord Jesus is my Guardian,
So I can nothing lack:
The lambs lie in His bosom
Along life's dangerous track:
The wilful lambs that go astray
He bleeding fetches back.

Lord Jesus is my guiding star,
My beacon-light in heaven:
He leads me step by step along
The path of life uneven:
He, true light, leads me to that land
Whose day shall be as seven.

Those Shepherds through the lonely night
Sat watching by their sheep,
Until they saw the heavenly host
Who neither tire nor sleep,
All singing 'Glory glory'
In festival they keep.

Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven:
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their 'Glory glory'
For my sake in the height.

The Wise Men left their country
To journey morn by morn,
With gold and frankincense and myrrh,
Because the Lord was born:
God sent a star to guide them
And sent a dream to warn.

My life is like their journey,
Their star is like God's book;
I must be like those good Wise Men
With heavenward heart and look:
But shall I give no gifts to God? –
What precious gifts they took!

Lord, I will give my love to Thee,
Than gold much costlier,
Sweeter to Thee than frankincense,
More prized than choicest myrrh:
Lord, make me dearer day by day,
Day by day holier;

Nearer and dearer day by day:
Till I my voice unite,
And I sing my 'Glory glory'
With angels clad in white;
All 'Glory glory' given to Thee
Through all the heavenly height.


Although, therefore, that infancy, which the majesty of God's Son did not disdain, reached mature manhood by the growth of years and, when the triumph of His passion and resurrection was completed, all the actions of humility which were undertaken for us ceased, yet today's festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary: and in adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life. For the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. Although every individual that is called has his own order, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time, yet as the entire body of the faithful being born in the font of baptism is crucified with Christ in His passion, raised again in His resurrection, and placed at the Father's right hand in His ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.

St. Leo the Great, Sermon 26 (On the Feast of the Nativity)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

L'Heure Solenelle

In 1843, the little parish church in Roquemaure, France, installed a new organ, and the priest wanted to do something special to celebrate. So he asked Roquemare's most famous literary figure, Placide Cappeau, to write up something Christmas-y to mark the occasion. Cappeau was probably even then an anti-clerical socialist and almost certainly an atheist, but he agreed to write something appropriate. And since he was an excellent poet, we got "Cantique de Noël". Cappeau himself liked it so much that he eventually got a friend of his, Adolphe Charles Adam, to set it to music.

Cantique de Noël
by Placide Cappeau

Minuit, chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle,
Où l'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d'espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.

Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur!

De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l'Enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l'Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche:
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur,

A votre orgueil, c'est de là que Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance,
C'est pour nous tous qu'il naît, qu'il souffre et meurt.

Peuple debout! Chante ta délivrance,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur!

Roughly translated:

Midnight, Christians: it is the solemn hour
when the God Man descends to us
to erase original sin
and to stay the wrath of His Father.
The whole world thrills with hope
on this night that gives it a Savior.
People, kneel down, await your deliverance:
Christmas, Christmas, behold the Redeemer;
Christmas, Christmas, behold the Redeemer!

By the ardent light of our faith
may we all be guided to the infant's cradle,
as elsetime a beautiful star
drew the kings of the east there.
The King of kings is born in a humble manger
O powers of the day, vaunting in your greatness,
God preaches to your pride.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer.

The Redeemer has broken every chain:
The earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where once was a slave;
love unites those who were chained by iron.
Who will tell of our appreciation;
for all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People rise up! Sing of your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, we sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, we sing of the Redeemer.

The most famous translation, of course, is John Sullivan Dwight's version, "O Holy Night", published in the midst of the American Civil War; it still uses a version of Adam's original music.

Brought for Us So Low

Christmas Eve
by Christina Rossetti

Christmas hath darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.


Therefore, O lover of this festival, when you have considered well the glorious mysteries of Bethlehem — which were brought to pass for your sake — gladly join yourself to the heavenly host, which is celebrating magnificently your salvation. As once David did before the ark, so do you, before this virginal throne, joyfully lead the dance. Hymn with gladsome song the Lord, who is always and everywhere present, and Him who from Teman, as says the prophet, has thought fit to appear, and that in the flesh, to the race of men. Say, with Moses, "He is my God, and I will glorify Him; my father's God, and I will exalt Him." Then, after your hymn of thanksgiving, we shall usefully inquire what cause aroused the King of Glory to appear in Bethlehem. His compassion for us compelled Him, who cannot be compelled, to be born in a human body at Bethlehem.

St. Methodius of Olympos (attributed), Oration on Simeon and Anna

Friday, December 23, 2016

Born a Stranger

A Christmas Carol
by Christina Rossetti

Before the paling of the stars,
Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cockcrow
Jesus Christ was born:
Born in a stable,
Cradled in a manger,
In the world His Hands had made
Born a Stranger.

Priest and King lay fast asleep
In Jerusalem,
Young and old lay fast asleep
In crowded Bethlehem:
Saint and Angel, Ox and Ass,
Kept a watch together,
Before the Christmas daybreak
In the winter weather.

Jesus on His Mother's breast
In the stable cold,
Spotless Lamb of God was He,
Shepherd of the Fold:
Let us kneel with Mary Maid,
With Joseph bent and hoary,
With Saint and Angel, Ox and Ass,
To hail the King of Glory.


Christ willed to be born in Bethlehem for two reasons. First, because "He was made . . . of the seed of David according to the flesh," as it is written (Romans 1:3); to whom also was a special promise made concerning Christ; according to 2 Samuel 23:1: "The man to whom it was appointed concerning the Christ of the God of Jacob . . . said." Therefore He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace the promise made to David might be shown to be fulfilled. The Evangelist points this out by saying: "Because He was of the house and of the family of David." Secondly, because, as Gregory says (Hom. viii in Evang.): "Bethlehem is interpreted 'the house of bread.' It is Christ Himself who said, 'I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.'"

St. Thomas Aquinas, ST 3.35.7.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Radio Greats: Christmas Bonus (The Whistler)

Within the human character, the line between good and evil is a thin and waving one.

The formula used by The Whistler is a highly flexible one, but if you are a show lasting thirteen years without summer breaks, you occasionally need to break or subvert the formula. "Christmas Bonus" has a structure very much like a typical Whistler tale: someone's done wrong, the net tightens, something triggers a shift, they get their comeuppance. But it takes it in a different direction from the usual, recognizing that there is another story in the vicinity, and that sometimes the more interesting story is not how the fallen get their punishment, but how the unfortunate are saved from a fall. We all need a little unexpected help sometimes, a little protection from ourselves and the terrible mistakes we can make. And a Christmas message of being able to rise above the darkness inside packs a special punch coming from a series that so often focuses on the darkness itself.

Mike Cobb fell in with the wrong crowd when younger and did time for it. Now, he has been trying to go straight and build a solid life with the woman he loves. But when the store he works at has a series of thefts that certainly indicate an inside job, and he is the obvious suspect, he is locked in a chain of events that can take him down a very dark road. Merry Christmas, Mike; the police detectives will be coming to talk to you....

You can listen to "Christmas Bonus" at the Internet Archive (number 63). The episode has a famous mistake -- the announcer announces the title as "Lie or Consequences" rather than the real title, "Christmas Bonus".


2:7. And she laid him in the manger.

He found man reduced to the level of the beasts: therefore is He placed like fodder in a manger, that we, having left off our bestial life, might mount up to that degree of intelligence which befits man's nature; and whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, even His own table, we find no longer fodder, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Sermon 1

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pieter Kanis, Apostle of Germany

Today is the Feast of St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, famous for his catechetical work. From a seventeenth-century translation of one of his catechisms (I have modernized spelling and some punctuation):

16. What is the sum of the Articles of the second person in Deity?

This: that Christ is true God and man, who began and brought to pass the wonderful work of man's Redemption, so that he is unto us the Way, Truth, and Life, by whom only, when we had all perished, we were saved and restored, and reconciled unto God the Father.

Of the benefit and true of such Redemption, we find thus written: The grace of God our Savior has appeared to all men instructing us, that, denying impiety and worldly desires, we live somberly, justly, and godly in this world, expecting the blessed hope and advent of the glory of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These be the words of the Apostle S. Paul; and in another place: We are the work of God, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God has prepared that we should walk in them. And again Christ died for all: that they also which live, may not now live to themselves, but to him that died for them and rose again.

Wherefore we must take diligent heed of the erroneous opinion of those, that do confess Christ not wholly and perfectly, but as it were, lame and maimed, whilst they do only acknowledge him as a Mediator and Redeemer, in whom we may trust, but do not withal admit him for a Law-maker, whose commandments we must obey, and a pattern of all virtue, which we must imitate, and a just Judge, who surely is to repay the due reward, or punishment to the works of everyone.

Georgette Heyer, A Civil Contract


Opening Passage:

The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the southeast, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond. On an after noon in March the sunlight did not penetrate the Gothic windows, and the room seemed dim, the carpet, the hangings, and the tooled leather backs of the books in the carved shelves as faded as the uniform of the man who sat motionless at the desk, his hands lying clasped on a sheaf of papers, his gaze fixed on a clump of daffodils, nodding in the wind that soughed round the angles of the house, and passed like a shadow over the unscythed lawn.

Summary: It is a curious feature of falling in love that we tend to fall in love not with people but with Ideas of them; and all too often these Ideas are really more about how they might add extra interest to our own lives. We often fall in love more with the adventure, or pleasure, or stability a person suggests to us than with the person; and not uncommonly we reach a point at which the Idea and the person are really in jarring conflict.

Adam Deveril, Viscount Lynton, is in love with Julia Oversley -- beautiful, gracious, charming. But his father has left debts so great that any marriage with her is quite out of the questions. To shore up his accounts, and, more importantly, to provide for his sisters and mother, he makes an arrangement with Jonathan Chawleigh, a fantastically wealthy financier and businessman, and marries his daughter, Jenny. Jenny, plain and unaccomplished, has in fact been in love with Adam already, a love she regarded as hopeless -- and continues to regard as hopeless, because while Adam is kind and courteous, she knows he is still in love with Julia. But all of this is really a matter of Idea; it has nothing to do with reality, but with airy romantic dreams of a particular kind of life.

One of the nice things about this work is the richness of the characters. Mr Chawleigh is vulgar and overbearing -- but has the shrewd generosity of a self-made man, the paradoxical kind that can be simultaneously proud of having spared no expense for you and of having driven a hard bargain in doing so. Adam is courteous and thoughtful, but is regularly tripped up by his pride. Even Adam's mother, the ever-complaining Dowager, eventually shows that she can rise nobly to the occasion -- however short the occasion might be. The real people go beyond the Ideas we have about them; and that is an important thing in a book of this sort.

There are a number of Austenish themes that run in the background, but stay in the background. Both Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park are mentioned in passing, in what simultanously gives us something of the chronology of the work and flags these themes. Jenny's good sense is contrasted with Julia's sensibility. Likewise, improvement (in the landscape sense) serves to suggest points about improvements (in the moral sense), as Fontley moves from a romantic ruin to something that actually works. But these are, again, generally in the background, giving an extra color to the work; they are not carry-overs from Austen, but put to somewhat different uses. I think they are (besides the importance of marriage) major contributors to the Austen-like character readers often talk about when talking about this work.

Favorite Passage:

Toward the end of the month, Mr Chawleigh arrived at Fontley to attend the birth of his grandchild. He found Jenny in good health, calmly awaiting the event, all her preparations made, and her house in order, but this in no way assuaged his too-evident anxiety. Adam though that it would have been better for Jenny had a he remained in London, but he had not had the heart to close his doors to him, and could only hope tht he would not make Jenny nervous. But two days before Jenny began to be ill the household was cast into astonishment by the wholly unexpected arrival of the Dowager, who had come (she said) because she felt it ot be her duty to support dear little Jenny through her ordeal, and lost no time at all in bringing both Mr Chawleigh and Adam to a sense of their folly, uselessness, and total irrelevance.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.

Winter Solstice

The Egyptians adored the sun and inappropriately referred to it as the visible son of the invisible God. But Jesus is the true sun who looks upon us with the rays of his light, who blesses us with his countenance and who rules us by his movements. He is the sun we should always behold and adore. Jesus is truly the only begotten Son of God and neither the sun nor any other created thing, whether in heaven or on earth, is his equal. Jesus is the only begotten Son and the visible Son of the invisible Father....Let us say for now that he is not the sun of the Egyptians, who were deceived by their myths, but the Sun of the Christians, who have been instructed in the school of truth, in the light of this sun, who is the light of the supernatural world. He is a sun who chose to depict and represent himself by the natural sun, which is only his shadow and symbol.

Pierre de Bérulle, Discourse on the State and Grandeurs of Jesus in Bérulle and the French School, Thompson, ed. Glendon, tr. Paulist (New York: 1989), 115.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wherein Unconcern Laughs Divine

'Tis the Feast of the Corn
by Paul Verlaine
tr. by Gertrude Hall

'Tis the feast of corn, 'tis the feast of bread,
On the dear scene returned to, witnessed again!
So white is the light o'er the reapers shed
Their shadows fall pink on the level grain.

The stalked gold drops to the whistling flight
Of the scythes, whose lightning dives deep, leaps clear;
The plain, labor-strewn to the confines of sight,
Changes face at each instant, gay and severe.

All pants, all is effort and toil 'neath the sun,
The stolid old sun, tranquil ripener of wheat,
Who works o'er our haste imperturbably on
To swell the green grape yon, turning it sweet.

Work on, faithful sun, for the bread and the wine,
Feed man with the milk of the earth, and bestow
The frank glass wherein unconcern laughs divine,—
Ye harvesters, vintagers, work on, aglow!

For from the flour's fairest, and from the vine's best,
Fruit of man's strength spread to earth's uttermost,
God gathers and reaps, to His purposes blest,
The Flesh and the Blood for the chalice and host!

Aaron Taylor has a nice article on sin in the life of the Church:

If we tried translating Verlaine’s spiritual writing into the language of accompaniment and integration, we would be exchanging great religious art (in contemplating which we understand something vital about the human condition) for soulless bureaucratic jargon.

The disappearance of the Verlaine-style “bad Catholic” from the contemporary Catholic landscape is not a sign that everyone became holy in the 1970s. It is a serious impoverishment. Those who are forgiven little, love little. Sin is ugly, but it is part of the moral economy that makes grace intelligible. Without it, the narrative of salvation history looks somewhat ridiculous, for what do we need saving from? There can be something beautiful about the life of someone who genuinely struggles with sin instead of making excuses, and beauty is indicative of truth.

Monday, December 19, 2016

And to the Next Stage...

The United States has basically a three-step election process for the Presidency. The first consists of the fifty-one popular votes, which took place on November 8, and which are counted and certified by the State governments. The second step consists in the Electoral College vote, which can be seen as a review and confirmation of those popular votes, and it took place today, December 19, in the various States, and its votes are then certified by the States and passed on. And then the Electoral College vote must be officially counted by Congress on January 6. Thus the election of a President involves the popular vote, undergoes review by the States, is taken into account in the Electoral College, and is sealed by the U.S. Congress. Every level of our federal system is involved.

The Texas Electors just voted: For the Presidency, 36 for Donald Trump, 1 for Ron Paul, and 1 for John Kasich. (They are still in the middle of the Vice-Presidential vote right now. I'll update with the numbers. UPDATE: And it is 37 votes for Mike Pence and 1 for Carly Fiorina.) Interestingly, the Texas EC was the most troublesome for Republicans. Four Electors simply didn't show and had to be replaced, leading to the Texas meeting taking forever. (It started at 2:00 and was doing procedural maneuvers until the Presidential vote a bit before 4:30.) Then it delivered what seems to have been Trump's only two defections. Texas Republicans are apparently a little wary of the Yankee real estate mogul. In any case, Trump already had 268, so the tardy Texas voting puts him over the top; he is confirmed by the Electoral College as our forty-fifth President.

Clinton had more trouble -- in Washington she lost 3 votes to Colin Powell and 1 to Faith Sitting Eagle, the NoDAPL activist, and there were several other attempted defections (although the electors in question were replaced).

UPDATE: And the final total seems to be:

Donald Trump 304
Hillary Clinton 227
Colin Powell 3
Faith Sitting Eagle 1
Ron Paul 1
John Kasich 1
Bernie Sanders 1

The Sanders vote seems to be from Hawaii. It's an unusual day in many ways: Clinton has lost the most EC votes of any candidate in the past century. The last time this many people received EC votes was 1796 (and then there was one slate for President and Vice President both). An elector in Maine tried to vote for Sanders, but changed his vote to Clinton on second ballot when told that it wouldn't be counted; an elector in Minnesota tried to vote for Sanders rather than Clinton and an elector in Colorado tried to vote for Kasich rather than Clinton, but were replaced. And thus the total of 'faithless electors' is now at 164.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Music on My Mind

Postmodern Jukebox ft. Mayre Martinez, "Como La Flor". A Selena tribute, of course.

I have been grading, and finally have finished the basics -- still some late work to do, as well as a review-and-check, but the bulk of it is done -- and I am sitting here drinking green tea, eating a pint of avocado ice cream (my favorite flavor), and taking it easy. I'll have the next fortnightly book up in the next day or two.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Music on My Mind

Heather Dale, "The Huron Carol". The song, the first Canadian Christmas carol, is said to have been written originally by St. Jean de Brébeuf in Wyandot, the Huron language; it was written down later by an associate and translated into French. This version is a gorgeous mix of Wyandot, French, and English for the first two stanzas.

Jean de Brébeuf, SJ, was ministering to his Huron flock when the village in which he was staying was raiding by Iroquois; he, St. Gabriel Lalemant, and some Huron converts were tortured and killed. He was canonized by Pius XI in 1930 and is commemorated on October 19 as one of the Canadian martyrs, or North American martyrs, as we say in the U.S.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Above All Else Inscribed in Lasting Gold

When I Review the Tablets of My Brain
by Francis Allen Hillard

When I review the tablets of my brain,
And see what memory hath scored thereon,
I count upon my hand the victories won,
And weep to see how small the total gain.
My one poor talent hidden in the ground,
Gains little interest, and hath naught to lend;
The small no larger grown, may ne'er amend,
Nor e'er with growing time be better found.
Still should oblivion the record shame,
Dim charactered in graving dull and old,
Yet leave in bold relief thy treasured name,
Above all else inscribed in lasting gold;
My heart would claim the scrip in lieu of fame,
More valuing friendship's worth than wealth untold.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bill of Rights Day

Today is Bill of Rights Day, which is interesting in itself. The 1791 Bill of Rights, covering the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, has not always been a thing; they were not originally called the Bill of Rights, and not even usually regarded as a unit. Only after the Civil War did the term even occasionally get used, and then it was almost always a rhetorical tactic to support some very controversial political position -- that the amendments should be applied to the States as a special account of equal protection of law, or that the American acquisition of the Philippines was not the collapse of the Republic into an empire but could be a legitimate enterprise (because it was restrained by some of the rights listed in the amendments).

This all changed with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt's New Deal raised major concerns about expansion of federal power and loss of individual freedoms. (It is interesting to note, incidentally, that every stage in the history of the Bill of Rights becoming a part of American culture indicates a major expansion of federal power beyond its prior limits; and it is perhaps worth thinking about why that might be the case. The history of this is summarized in a very nice article by Gerard Magliocca, which has saved me from many potential errors in this summary: The Bill of Rights as a Term of Art.) In response, Roosevelt began appealing to the Bill of Rights as the safeguard of liberty that the welfare state could not possibly infringe. Still a rhetorical tactic in a game of political controversy, but it set things up for the next step. Beginning in 1939, Roosevelt began contrasting the American society, based on the Bill of Rights, with the societies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Thus, when in 1941 the amendments hit their 150th anniversary, Roosevelt established Bill of Rights Day, which happened to fall eight days after Pearl Harbor. And the first Bill of Rights Day was celebrated with the most successful radio program in history, Norman Corwin's "We Hold These Truths", listened to with all the passion of patriotic war fervor by literally half the population of the United States. From that point on, the Bill of Rights became a central monument of the American Way of Life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Juan de la Cruz

Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church:

We must remember that the Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden in essence and in presence, in the inmost being of the soul. That soul, therefore, that will find Him, must go out from all things in will and affection, and enter into the profoundest self-recollection, and all things must be to it as if they existed not. Hence, St. Augustine says: "I found You not without, O Lord; I sought You without in vain, for You are within," God is therefore hidden within the soul, and the true contemplative will seek Him there in love, saying,

"Where have You hidden Yourself?"

O you soul, then, most beautiful of creatures, who so long to know the place where your Beloved is, that you may seek Him, and be united to Him, you know now that you are yourself that very tabernacle where He dwells, the secret chamber of His retreat where He is hidden. Rejoice, therefore, and exult, because all your good and all your hope is so near you as to be within you; or, to speak more accurately, that you can not be without it, "for lo, the kingdom of God is within you." So says the Bridegroom Himself, and His servant, St. Paul, adds: "You are the temple of the living God." What joy for the soul to learn that God never abandons it, even in mortal sin; how much less in a state of grace!

From the Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ (stanza 1).

The Arrogance of Complacent Incompetence

A fascinating article on Clinton's loss in Michigan, which does very well at highlighting the incompetence of Robbie Mook, her campaign manager, and reads at times like a textbook case of the dangers of centralized planning:

Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.

“There’s this illusion that the Clinton campaign had a ground game. The deal is that the Clinton campaign could have had a ground game,” said a former Obama operative in Michigan. “They had people in the states who were willing to do stuff. But they didn’t provide people anything to do until GOTV.”

But the really telling thing is this:

Top aides in Brooklyn write off complaints from battleground state operatives as Monday morning quarterbacking by people who wouldn’t have had much of a case if Clinton had won. They continue to blame the loss on FBI Director James Comey, saying he shifted late deciders, not any tactical failures.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Radio Greats: Twelve Portraits of Marcia (The Whistler)

I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, many secrets hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak!

The Whistler is one of the great series of the Golden Age of Radio. For thirteen very popular years, from 1942 to 1955, it presented weekly 'strange stories' with unexpected twists and poetic ironies about the darkness in the human soul, each one opened by that distinctive 13-note whistle, which I believe was whistled anew each week by Dorothy Roberts for all thirteen years. The show used a formula, but it was a very powerful and flexible one. The typical tale was a comeuppance tale, like a mystery, except we already know the perpetrator, and follow them through their plotting of evil deeds and the inevitable unraveling of it all. The perfect crime is laid bare by the one unknown thing. The act of vengeance is brought to light by the chance meeting. The clever criminal ties himself up in his own clever web. The evildoer finds himself evilly done. The means of undeserved success suddenly turns and becomes the means of a very deserved downfall. And through it all, The Whistler himself in the shadows talks the perpetrator through it, almost gloating, as the doom inevitably comes.

Done well, there is no kind of story that is more satisfying as a story. And The Whistler is often done well, which is remarkable given its astounding run. Not only did it last thirteen years, it was the only major radio series that never took a summer break. Except for preemptions and occasionally repeated favorites, it was a new episode each week, for a grand total of 692. Alas, probably about a third of these have vanished, but that still leaves a very fertile field.

"Twelve Portraits of Marcia" is one of the best of the typical Whistler tales, with a distinctive story and a nice balance between psychological thriller and ironic humor, a rather poetic style, and a twist different from what you might expect. Ralph is a painter, on his twelfth portrait of Marcia, the woman he has promised to marry. He is talented. All he needs is publicity to become a famous painter. And he has a plan for how to get it -- don't you, Ralph?

You can listen to "Twelve Portraits of Marcia" at the Internet Archive (number 204).

'Faithless Electors'

I've been avoiding most election issues, particularly as they have become more and more conspiracy-theory-like, but I've been meaning for a while to talk a bit about electors in the Electoral College, and since they electors place their votes one week from today, it seems about as good a time as any.

I've been actively arguing in favor of the Electoral College for well over a decade now, and the issue of 'faithless electors' has always been the major beef people have with it. How dare we have a system in which the electors can vote against the will of the people! This is the first election that I have come across people arguing that electors should be 'faithless', but the same basic idea is really in play.

The Electoral College was invented in part in order to admit the 'sense of the people' into the election of the new Office of the President, and the tweaks since then, whatever else their motive, have certainly been with the intent of make it better suited for this. Can the electors vote against the will of the people? Sure, strictly speaking, in exactly the same sense that Congress can act against the will of the people. Are they ever supposed to do so? No.

We get into the habit of thinking that as people vote, so is their will, but there are clearly cases where this is not true. The most common case that has actually required action by the Electoral College is when the candidate the people actually voted for died before the electors met. In such a case, of course, what the electors do is they, usually in practice on advisement from their parties, cast a vote for an alternative that they think will make a reasonable fit for what the people would want. Voting, despite its value, suffers from the fact that it's a snapshot-petition, not a rigorous accounting of what the people want or need. It is also, although we tend to ignore this even more, highly ambiguous -- when people cast a vote for President they may be voting for the candidate, for the party, for a set of policies, or for a lesser evil. That vote may be with firm conviction or with the greatest hesitation and reluctance. (This is why talk of a 'mandate' is always a bit absurd.)

Thus the point of a body like the Electoral College is to make sure these matters are considered in the actual election. There is no possible rule that can guarantee that they are done so in the right way -- considering them requires looking at the endless variations of circumstance that every practical decision of importance requires. Of the 157 EC votes that have not followed the popular vote,

71 have been cast because the candidate for which the popular vote went died;
30 (in 1832) were protest votes against Martin Van Buren;
23 (in 1836) were protest votes against the Vice Presidential candidate Richard M. Johnson;
7 (in 1828) were protest votes against John Calhoun;
6 (in 1808) were protest votes against James Madison;
4 (in 1896) were due to the fact that two different parties, the Democratic Party and the People's Party, endorsed the same Presidential candidate but different Vice Presidential candidates, and some People's Party electors decided to vote the Democratic slate for the latter;
3 were protest votes against Richard Nixon;
3 (in 1812) were protest votes against Vice Presidential candidate Jared Ingersoll;
2 (in 1832) were protest abstentions against Henry Clay;
1 (in 1820) is supposedly because the elector believed that giving the votes unanimously was not usually reasonable;
1 (in 1948) was due to the fact that the Tennessee Democratic Party had a schism;
1 (in 1988) was to draw attention to the fact that electors could vote for someone other than the person who won the popular vote for the state;
1 (in 2000) was a protest for the lack of Congressional representation for the District of Columbia;
the remaining 4 were for reasons unknown.

Not all of these were equally savvy moves, and one may reasonably disparage the wisdom of some of them, but the fact of the matter is that if you are genuinely trying to represent the will of the people instead of shoehorning the people into an arbitrary number, this is exactly the sort of deviation you would expect. The protest votes against candidates all correspond to issues that were genuinely part of the election; several raise questions not about candidates but about the system itself, concerns which certainly exist; several are due to the complications of party politics, which does not always easily resolve into a vote for a particular candidate.

Thus in this election, if the Democratic party electors (at least 2 from Washington and some from Colorado) who have said that they will not cast a vote for Clinton actually follow through, this is actually reflecting the fact that there is a more complicated process going on in the Democratic party than just supporting Clinton -- in this case, anger over the politics of picking Democratic candidates. If any Republican electors, like the 1 from Texas, refuse to vote for Trump, this reflects something genuinely going on among the people.

To be sure, electors can ignore the people; in this sense, though, they are like any representatives. Their purpose, however, is to make the sense of the people known, even in cases in which the popular vote numbers are potentially misleading for one reason or another. It's thus entirely reasonable to expect that they will generally follow the popular vote -- and there also needs to be a recognition that there may sometimes be genuine popular reason to deviate somewhat.

In any case, to affect the election, at least 37 electoral college votes, perhaps more, would need to be moved. This has not happened since 1872 (when 63 votes deviated from the popular vote), and that was because Horace Greeley died, so there was no point in voting for him. It is extraordinarily unlikely that we will see anything like this. If it happens, there would certainly be an uproar. But that many votes shifting would also convey something about the uneasiness of the people, which vote tallies could never do.

If it did happen, of course, so that nobody wins the EC, it kicks the Presidential decision to the House of Representatives, who will vote on it. However, each state delegation only gets one vote, and, unlike the Electoral College, they cannot choose anyone they want -- they are locked into a choice among the top three Electoral College contenders. It's difficult to imagine, however much they might not like Trump, that the Republicans, who dominant the state delegations in the House, would not worry about the repercussions they might experience from their constituencies if they voted for Clinton, so Trump would almost certainly win. But if it went that far, that too would tell us something about the sense of the people.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bombing at St. Mark's, Cairo

A bomb has exploded near St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, the mother church of the Coptic Orthodox; at least 25 people have been killed and over thirty injured. The bomb actually exploded in an adjunct chapel (the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul), and seems to have been calculated to try to kill as many people as possible as liturgy was ending.

The Cathedral itself is relatively new, but when it was built, they incorporated several churches that were already there, some of which are quite old and in turn incorporate elements of even older churches.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

O Hours, More Worth than Gold

I Love to Rise Ere Breaks the Tardy Light
by Anna Seward

I love to rise ere breaks the tardy light,
Winter's pale day; and, as clear fires illume,
And cheerful tapers shine around the room,
Through misty windows bend my musing sight
Where, round the dusky lawn, the mansions white,
With shutters clos'd, peer faintly through the gloom,
That slow recedes; while yon grey spires assume,
Rising from their dark pile, an added height,
By indistinctness given;—then to decree
The rising thoughts to Heaven, ere they unfold
To Friendship, or the Muse; or seize with glee
Wisdom's rich page!—O hours, more worth than gold,
By whose blest use we lengthen life, and, free
From drear decays of age, outlive the old!

This is from Letter XXVIII, to Miss Ponsonby; the letter is, as all of Seward's letters, beautifully written, and gives her account of what makes a sonnet excellent. It is a subject on which she can be regarded as an expert -- Seward is often called the Swan of Lichfield because of the quality of her sonnets.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Dashed Off XXVIII

Successful promulgations are not always successful communications.

People who, taken of a sudden, would hold to their faith in the face of death, will sometimes apostasize in the face of long and grinding poverty.

second-hand knowledge of one's obligations
maybe-obligations and their force
maybe-obligations vs. actual obligations with respect to possibilities
Maybe-obligations would require a hybrid modal logic of an epistemic Diamond and deontic Box (but perhaps the Diamond should be doxastic?). -- Complicated by the need to distinguish genuine candidates from things merely not known to be nonobligatory.

particles as moves in game

(A) primary principles of Mariology
(1) Mary as Mother of Christ, both God and Man
(2) Mary as spiritual mother of all Christians
(B) secondary principles
(1) uniqueness
(2) eminence
(3) fittingness (a) to divine maternity (b) to spiritual maternity (b1) in itself or (b2) as symbol of Christ
(4) likeness to and union with Christ
(C) singular privileges
(D) Marian mission
(1) proper
(2) of Church through spiritual maternity

methodus = artificialis consideratio

Rawlsian veil of ignorance // Cartesian ego in condition of methodical doubt

analogue clustering as primitive classification

Scripture has its primary existence in proclamation and reflection by the Church.

adapting vs nonadapting texts

Even a complete and adequate rule, however authoritative, does not have the kind of authority to apply itself authoritatively.
Authority is primarily an attribute of persons.

constancy & coherence in traditions

Consequence-based arguments often serve as a lowest common denominator in ethical discussions because even ethical morons will accept at least some consequence-based arguments.

As God gives grace that other grace may be received, so God gives authority that other authority may be accepted.
All grace is, among other things, a gift of authority.

triple encounter with Christ: in the sacraments, in the Scriptures, in the poor and vulnerable

the turn of fortune as a basic unit of narrative

rhetorical study of decoy provocations in arguments

The Vedas are ritual manuals; the Sri Guru Granth a songbook for prayer; the Qur'an a collection of prophetic recitations. The Bible, however, does not exclude any of these aspects.

Proverbs 1-9 read ecclesiologically

saint icons, episode icons, allegory icons

In the hands of a master, all things can become a philosophical argument.

Reasons do not so much add as layer.

arguments as guidelines/maps vs arguments as expressions of authority

the iconesque

In early iconography (3rd and 4th centuries), Moses, Jesus, and Peter are often depicted with a staff
On Jesus // Moses cp Clementine Rec 1:57; Ep Barn 12:5; Justin Dial Trypho 86:1-4
Peter striking the rock as Moses striking the rock a common depiction (cp. Acts of Peter 5); association with baptism
Targum of Onkelos: Kepha is used of the rock Moses smote
Acts 7:38 -- the ecclesia is the people of Israel gathered with Moses

transubstantiation as unqualified assertion of real presence
homousios as unqualified assertion of divinity of Son

The priesthood of the people of God teleologically implies the priesthood of a clergy within it.

It is not so much that the natural desire of man is to externalize his religion as that the natural desire of man is to internalize it.

two aspects of corporate almsdeeds: philoxenia & koinonia

Too many attacks on legalism have the import of 'uncircumcision availeth'.

the external world as reliable cause of communication, of knowledge, of interpretation

Genuine good taste is an attempt to reach the true delight in the world that so often eludes us through culpable ignorance, distorting craving, and perverse habit.

(1) Our wills are disposed to good as such
(2) Nothing short of good as such can dispose anything to good as such.

HoP as an n-agent logical concept

In the beginning God created covenant and promise.

baptism : Immaculate Conception :: confirmation : Annunciation :: Eucharist : Dolors :: unction : Assumption :: penance : Intercession :: matrimony : Perpetual Virginity :: Orders : Queenship of Heaven

Fortitude is the sword of prudence and temperance is its shield.

Icons are to grace as laws to providence.

Rosmini's Theodicy and its implicit account of art

the three levels of a story: what is, what is thought to be, what ought to be

If we look to the critical faults Aristotle notes & analogize to evils: impossible and improbable are not issues; thus we get: corruption, instability or inconsistency of good, and imperfection.

Wisdom's gardener parable analogizes to all realism/anti-realism disputes.

uniforms as constant communications

Lists may be analogized, just as the terms in them.

lists as proto-systems

custom // prevenient pleasure

The liturgical calendar is itself a quasi-sacrament in which the mysteries of Christ's own life (nativity, transfiguration, etc.) continue to have effect and shed grace on us. In reality, of course, the sacramentality is due to the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ on the altar and in Heaven, entering into the prayer of the Church according to His many Mysteries and our disposition as a people. (It takes the entire liturgical year, and all its feasts, to express the basic Mystery of the Eucharist in even its major facets.)

the three primary icons of Christ in the Mass (not counting the Eucharist, which is that to which icons tend): cross, Gospel, priest

the necessarily solidary and subsidiary character of papal jurisdiction

We can easily distinguish sacred and secular aesthetics, rhetoric, poetics, politics, so it would be strange if we could not distinguish a sacred and a secular ethics. (Note, though, that sacred architecture, for instance, does not operate under wholly different principles as secular architecture, having the same material and formal principles but differing only as to end; the same would have to be true.)

healthy development of liturgy: it retains the same type, the same principles, the same organization (logical structure),; its beginnings anticipate subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earliest; it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last.
preservation of type: preserving the essentials of sacraments and worship
continuity of principles: continuity of the Mysteries that unite
power of assimilation: full Christian and thereby transfigures the culture (true inculturation)
logical sequence as internal coherence
anticipation of future, of course, we only know through time -- i.e., what is not a dead end
conservative action on the past: illustrates tradition, corroborates tradition
chronic vigor: devotion, charitable work, evangelism, and ministry (note that chronic vigor is nondecay -- a corruption may yet have vigor, so it only identifies a necessary condition)

applying the principles of Rosmini's theodicy to liturgical development
liturgical development as exhibiting the internal aspects of prudence

preservation: type, principles, coherence
growth: anticipation, conservation
relation to environment: assimilation, vigor

Newman's notes of developments can be applied to particular churches themselves (in a sense this is close to what they were designed for).

ecclesial characters of particular churches arise from
(1) charisms
(2) moral causes (structure, historical situation, historical memory)
(3) physical causes (interaction with environment, geography of shrines, etc.)

Liturgy in its development must
(1) remain the same fundamental kind of thing
(2) preserve the character of Christ
(3) remain coherent
(4) draw on its heritage
(5) encourage further forms of flourishing
(6) correct and elevate the cultures in which it is found
(7) inspire devotion and mercy.

memory: type, principles, organization
intellect: anticipation, conservation
will: assimilation, vigor

forms of corruption (broadly speaking): change of kind, disruption of principles, logical inconsistency, unanticipated introduction, failure to build means to preserve, stagnant response, mere decay

Commitment to the virtues of charity and justice naturally expresses itself in rites and music.

the peculiarities of erudite life

Education is aeviternal in the sense that the proper measure of its duration is in epochs of insight.

The perfection of fortitude requires giving of self.

Diversity that benefits a society is diversity taht contributes to unifying common good.

the analogy of flavors as the foundation of a vocabulary for gustatory aesthetics (e.g., the muscatel of second flush Darjeeling)

Conspiracy-theory thinking poisons social relations.

Printing creates a challenge for liturgy because it makes possible rates of diffusion and change not governed by natural rhythms.

All measurement in physics has a biological component (physicists and their senses).

Belief, anticipation, and desire structure inquiry and are needed for discovery. Even accidental discovery requires something of these to be a discovery at all.

the literal, tropological, allegorical, and anagogical dimensions of liturgy (compare Suger on anagogy of Church architecture)

church architecture as frozen liturgy

hospitality as a natural property of true authority

fuzzy simultaneity

simultaneity as 'A and B are not distinguished by temporal measure' vs as 'A and B are distinguished from C as having the same temporal measure' (i.e., not measurably distinguishable vs having common measure)

moral arguments for God's existence should have parallels in intellectual inquiry and aesthetics; politics as well (cp Voltaire)

family of argument for God's existence || principal principle for external world
cosmological || direct causation
eutaxiological || causation of coherence
ontological || conceptual requirement
moral || practical requirement

factors contributing to the antecedent credibility of the existence of the external world

Meaningfulness of life admits of gradation.

human dignity, messianic community, higher law

A Motte and Bailey Ambiguity

In 2005, Nicholas Shackel published an interesting exploratory paper on diagnosis of certain defective methods, The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology (PDF), and introduced a concept for classifying some of them that he called "Motte and Bailey Doctrines". A motte and bailey defense consists of protecting a wide, lightly defended area with a central vantage point that is easy to defend. The simplest example is of an area surrounded by a ditch with a mound in the middle; the ditch allows for basic preliminary defense, but if the enemy presses harder, you fall back to the easier-to-defend mound, and then extend back outward when the enemy leaves. You live in the bailey and fall back to the motte when you have to do so -- only to return to the bailey when you can.

On the basis of this, Shackel builds an analogy to philosophical positions. The 'motte' is a position that is easy to defend, although it's not really the important thing; the 'bailey' is the position you really want, but it may be difficult to defend against close argument. So when close argument comes, you fall back to the obvious things in the 'motte'. For instance, your outer position might be very doubtful and your fallback position might be something almost no one would doubt, so that and when your outer position is attacked, you simply argue for the fallback position. Shackel takes this, plausibly, to happen usually by equivocation.

There are a number of obscurities in Shackel's original discussion. None of them are fatal or problematic for an exploratory discussion as it certainly is, but they do sometimes complicate his stronger claims. For instance, he says:

Diagnosis of a philosophical doctrine as being a Motte and Bailey Doctrine is invariably fatal. Once made it is relatively obvious to those familiar with the doctrine that the doctrine’s survival required a systematic vacillation between exploiting the desired territory and retreating to the Motte when pressed.

But in fact this does not seem to be strictly true, because defensibility is not actually a feature that can read off a position -- it depends on available resources for defense, which can vary from person to person. Thus person A might have an understanding of how to defend the outer perimeter against you while person B does not. Thus the perimeter might be quite defensible with person A and indefensible with person B, with B incapable of doing much more than falling back to obvious basics. This is obscured by the fact that Shackel often talks about the matter in terms of an outer interesting falsehood and an inner trivial truth; but, of course, in real life positions don't come marked with tags saying 'This is false', and whether it is in fact false doesn't really affect much how defensible it is in the immediate context. The vacillation is something that occurs in an argumentative context; but Shackel regularly treats the diagnosis as being of the position as it is believed.

This is a potentially serious ambiguity given that in the abstract a highly defensible position surrounded by a region of things that are just suggested or guesstimated or practically useful is the normal state of philosophical positions as believed. There is nothing wrong with this -- it is how one explores and develops the intellectual territory in the first place, and even if it weren't people can just be honestly not aware of the exact border between the trivial and the nontrivial-but-seemingly-obvious-because-it-looks-like-the-trivial. Likewise, if someone attacks your position and you give it up and fall back to a safer position, where you stay, this is not a motte and bailey situation, because you aren't returning to the original position. Likewise, if you do return to the original position but build up the means to defend it in its own right, this is not a motte and bailey situation, either, because you then stay at the outer position. To be a diagnosis of a flaw based on differential defensibility, it needs the 'systematic vacillation' in actual defense of the position that uses this common structure of positions in a sophistical way. This is not something that happens with positions as such, but only as they are handled in actual interaction with others.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Godspeed, John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., a Democratic Senator from Ohio, a veteran pilot with 149 combat missions in two wars, the first pilot to fly a supersonic transcontinental flight, the fifth man in space, the third American in space, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95.

May this Republic never cease to have citizens of his caliber.

Baptized from Conception

John Henry Newman, Faith and Prejudice, Sermon 7:

As we give Him of our best, ascribe to Him what is best, as on earth we make our churches costly and beautiful; as when He was taken down from the cross, His pious servants wrapped Him in fine linen, and laid Him in a tomb in which never man was laid; as His dwelling place in heaven is pure and stainless—so much more ought to be—so much more was—that tabernacle from which He took flesh, in which He lay, holy and immaculate and divine. As a body was prepared for Him, so was the place of that body prepared also. Before the Blessed Mary could be Mother of God, and in order to her being Mother, she was set apart, sanctified, filled with grace, and made meet for the presence of the Eternal.

And the Holy Fathers have ever gathered the exact obedience and the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin from the very narrative of the Annunciation, when she became the Mother of God. For when the Angel appeared to her and declared to her the will of God, they say that she displayed especially four graces, humility, faith, obedience and purity. Nay, these graces were as it were, preparatory conditions to her being made the minister of so high a dispensation. So that if she had not had faith, and humility, and purity, and obedience, she would not have merited to be God's Mother. Thus it is common to say that she conceived Christ in mind before she conceived Him in body, meaning that the blessedness of faith and obedience preceded the blessedness of being a Virgin Mother. Nay, they even say that God waited for her consent before He came into her and took flesh of her. Just as He did no mighty works in one place because they had not faith, so this great miracle, by which He became the Son of a creature, was suspended till she was tried and found meet for it—till she obeyed.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2016

Not for all! For those who shine when tested in the light
are truths that pour from holy God like torrent in a gale;
none but the purified know God, in life and body pure,
who, placed in God's catharsis-flame resplendently endure.

Incorrupt, immaculate, and ever-virgin sign!
Holiest of holies, Ark on whom the Presence dwells!
Unblemished heart made splendid by the coming of the Lord!
Your flesh you shared in holy grace with new-incarnate Word.

Who is not clean in soul and flesh no holy gifts can bring;
thus Christ makes clean baptismal font to purify our hearts,
and Mary, bathed in Spirit's grace, the maid prepurified,
reflects immaculate the face of One who for us died.

Links of Note, Notably Linked

* Gregory Stackpole had a nice passage from St. Gregory the Great on the ends of power, with some discussion.

* Elisa Freschi, Analytical Philosophy of Religion with Indian Categories, makes an interesting point here:

“God” is an ambiguous term, in fact so ambiguous that I wonder why does not each study about philosophy of religion start with a discussion of what the author means by this word. I pragmatically distinguish (for instance, in my teaching) between god as devatā ‘deity’ (a superhuman being which is better than a human one, but only insofar as s/he has the same qualities of a human being in higher degree, like the Greek and Roman deities of mythology), god as īśvara ‘Lord’ (the omniscient and omnipotent being of rational theology), god as brahman ‘impersonal being’ (the impersonal Absolute of most monisms, including Bradley’s one discussed by Guido Bonino) and god as bhagavat ‘personal God’ (the personal God one directly relates to in prayers, without necessarily caring for His/Her omnipotence or omniscience, but rather focusing on Him/Her as spouse, parent, child, etc.). Within this classification, Analytical Philosophy of Religion appears to focus on the īśvara aspect of God.

* G. B. Sadler, How Hard Is It to Find an Aristotelian Friend?

* Elliott Roland on essentially ordered causal series

* Don't forget Whewell's Gazette: Year 3, Vol #16 and the many good links that ThonyC has drawn together on the history of science.

* Some discussions of the election, in no particular order:

John Michael Greer, When the Shouting Stops

TheOFloinn, It's Never as Bad as Some People Think

Malak Chabkoun, Spoiled Americans Now Want to Flee What They Created

Patrick Clark, Truth, Hegemony, and Our Need for Exemplars

John Cleese's reaction to the American election is excellently Cleesey, whatever your political inclinations.

* Sara L. Uckelmann continues her excellent discussion of the logical principle ex impossibili sequitur quodlibet in the thirteenth century: Part 1, Part 2

* I had intended to post this a while ago but never did: Nahuatl hymns for All Saints Day; Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs.

* Zachary Braiterman notes some problems with the notion that a doctrine of natural law can be found in rabbinical sources.

* Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Intellectual Yet Idiot

* An important reexamination of the famous Milgram experiment, noting its many flaws

* It's a mark of something that Bre Payton has to explain what the song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside", is really about. I was glad to see her bring in the Armstrong and Middleton version, which is hilarious.

* Jessica Leech has a very good interview on modality at "3am"

* Pauline Kaurin on the Melian Dialogue

* David Dyzenhaus on salus populi suprema lex

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Model of Apostolic Courage

Today (December 7) was the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church. Ambrose was born in Trier, but he was in many ways the most Roman of the Church Fathers, a Roman's Roman, born to a good Roman family, educated in Rome, pursuing a career in Roman law. He became consular prefect of Aemilia-Liguria, which brought him to Milan. When the See of Milan -- one of the most important sees in the West, and closely connected at that time with the imperial court -- fell vacant, there was a big dispute over who should become the next bishop. Ambrose stepped in to keep the argument from getting out of hand -- and the people demanded that he become the bishop. He was only a catechumen, so he was baptized, confirmed, ordained, and installed as bishop of Milan all on the same day, December 7, 374. He gave his property to the Church and started reading theology -- as someone with a good Roman education, he could read Greek as well as Latin, and taught himself what he needed to know with his usual practical efficiency. (It may be that this process of having to do so much studying may have been a reason for his habit of reading silently, which Augustine mentions, although it's also possible that it is a habit he picked up earlier.) He was never one to back down when he thought he was right, and he faced down Emperor Theodosius more than once.

From Book I, Chapter I of his De fide:

Now this is the declaration of our Faith, that we say that God is One, neither dividing His Son from Him, as do the heathen, nor denying, with the Jews, that He was begotten of the Father before all worlds, and afterwards born of the Virgin; nor yet, like Sabellius, confounding the Father with the Word, and so maintaining that Father and Son are one and the same Person; nor again, as does Photinus, holding that the Son first came into existence in the Virgin's womb: nor believing, with Arius, in a number of diverse Powers, and so, like the benighted heathen, making out more than one God. For it is written: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God."

For God and Lord is a name of majesty, a name of power, even as God Himself says: "The Lord is My name," and as in another place the prophet declares: "The Lord Almighty is His name." God is He, therefore, and Lord, either because His rule is over all, or because He beholds all things, and is feared by all, without difference.

If, then, God is One, one is the name, one is the power, of the Trinity. Christ Himself, indeed, says: "Go, baptize the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." In the name, mark you, not in the names.

Music on My Mind

Robert Plant, "Ship of Fools"

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Xenophon, Ways and Means

Xenophon's Poroi e Peri Prosodon, or Ways and Means, as the title would be in English, was perhaps the last work written by Xenophon, but it has received relatively little study. It is, however, a rather unique text. It is remarkable first, for being a significant early economic text with quite innovative ideas, and, second, for ordering these economic ideas to a more general theme, which is that peace can be better for prosperity than war, and thus that the need for money is not a sufficient excuse for mistreating one's allies.

You can read Ways and Means online at the Perseus Project. Joseph Nicholas Jansen has an interesting dissertation on the work and its place in political economy.

The Thought

Xenophon opens by noting that some leading politicians (prostatai) in Athens have claimed to be interested in justice, but have used the poverty of Athenians as an excuse to treat the allies of Athens unjustly. Thus, he says, he began to think about whether it might be possible to sustain Athens on its own land. This seems possible in terms of the usefulness of the land itself, which has a number of advantages: the climate is relatively mild and good for a variety of different kinds of plants, the land has a large quantity of good stone, and, of course, there is Attica's famous supply of silver. Athens is ideally located for trade, and far from any barbarians that could cause trouble.

In addition, Athens has a large population of metics, i.e., resident aliens, who both support themselves and pay taxes. Xenophon thus recommends that some study be devoted to reducing burdens on the metics where these burdens do not clearly benefit the city; the obligation of the metics to serve in the military forces of Athens should also be abolished, but they should be allowed, if they volunteer, to fill more than just infantry positions. As there is room in Athens for houses, a system should be developed to allow them to apply for freehold housing within the city walls, which the city can then use to draw in the best of them.

Of course, Athens is also a major commercial center already, with excellent ports and a good market. Making the city more efficient and hospitable for merchants would contribute to trade, and thus of trade-based revenue. Notably, it, like better treatment of the metics, would increase revenue without requiring much more than Athens already has and the will to put them into effect consistently.

Some revenue-raising projects themselves require capital, but Xenophon argues that it should be possible to raise this capital by borrowing from the citizens themselves. Citizens in Athens already contribute a great deal to build warships, despite never having any opportunity to receive a return on the investment; it should be possible to convince citizens to invest in a capital fund that will certainly provide such a return in interest, backed by the city itself, which is far more durable an institution than any other in which they might invest. You can also enroll such investors in a list of benefactors, which might even draw foreign investors for the prestige.

Out of this capital, one can build the infrastructure for simultaneously collecting revenue and encouraging trade (3.12-13):

When funds were sufficient, it would be a fine plan to build more lodging-houses for shipowners near the harbours, and convenient places of exchange for merchants, also hotels to accomodate visitors. Again, if houses and shops were put up both in the Peiraeus and in the city for retail traders, they would be an ornament to the state, and at the same time the source of a considerable revenue.

Xenophon also considers the possibility of using the capital fund to create a merchant navy -- ships owned by the city and leased out to merchants.

Section 4 brings us to the most extensive discussion of the work, on the subject of what should be done with Athens's silver mines. The silver mines require considerable labor to tap properly, and are also an immense resource, and therefore are an opportunity for more massive economic expansion than is found in other trades. Silver, in addition, is both a precious resource and a backup currency, which means that there is a continual demand for it. Thus he approves of the Athenian policy of allowing noncitizens to participate in mining. In practice, of course, the actual laborers in the mines are generally slaves, and Xenophon advocates that Athens build a slave labor force -- three slaves for every citizen -- to lease out to those who wish to try to make a profit from mining. In addition, he advocates a system in which both Athenian demes and private interests are able to share profits by cooperative work.

All of this, as with the previous suggestions, can be implemented gradually -- as he says, it doesn't matter how many houses, ships, or slaves we are talking about, since each one begins generating some revenue immediately. He also notes that these all generate second-order sources of revenues -- for instance, an expansion of mining increases the population in that area, which would create a need for a market and opportunities for new construction, both of which can be sources of revenue.

All of this is interesting, but it seems that Xenophon has a larger conclusion in mind than just to propose some practical policies. This becomes clear in Section 5:

If it seems clear that the state cannot obtain a full revenue from all sources unless she has peace, is it not worth while to set up a board of guardians of peace? Were such a board constituted, it would help to increase the popularity of the city and to make it more attractive and more densely thronged with visitors from all parts. If any are inclined to think that a lasting peace for our city will involve a loss of her power and glory and fame in Greece, they too, in my opinion, are out in their calculations. For I presume that those states are reckoned the happiest that enjoy the longest period of unbroken peace; and of all states Athens is by nature most suited to flourish in peace. For if the state is tranquil, what class of men will not need her?

Peace, then, enriches the city. Nor does political ascendancy come entirely by war, either; the Athenians did not achieve preeminence in the Persian Wars by making wars on other Greeks but by being useful to them. After this hegemony was lost, it was restored again, and this, too, was with the cooperation of other Greek cities that found that giving Athens power resulted in benefits for themselves. Moreover, if Athens really and truly worked to uphold peace among Greek cities, Athens's own safety would be in the interest of those cities; and if she were forced to defend herself, a record of peace would mean that nobody could accuse her of doing so for unjust cause.

Having laid out his case, Xenophon summarizes the benefits and prosperity that he thinks will flow from putting his proposals into effect, and, if Athens decides to implement them, he recommends that they start by asking Delphi and Dodona which gods should be propitiated so that the gods would look with favor on their undertakings.

Additional Comments

* Poros is literally a way or path. The word seems in this context to be used to indicate a way to obtain revenue; the revenue itself is prosodos.

* Since the work seems clearly to refer to events in the aftermath of the Social War, when Athens had lost its hegemony for a second time, and to the beginning of the Third Sacred War, it is common to date the work 355/354 BC. This is tied to the book's emphasis on creating prosperity without imperial oppression.

* It's easy to focus on the economic policies, but it's worthwhile to step back and look at the whole. Doing so makes it clear that to a great degree Xenophon is really advocating a healthy operation of the city: it should be able to support itself but also exist in mutually beneficial relationships with allies, it should build up those things in the city that sustain it, it should encourage schemes and projects in which citizens working for their own benefit are also working for the benefit of the city, it should treat its resident population well, it should treat its allies well. The policies trace out major features of city life, and at each point advocate in some way that a gap be closed between private interest and public good.

The Organic American People

The sovereign in the republican order is the organic people, or state, and is with us the United States, for with us the organic people exist only as organized into States united, which in their union form one compact and indissoluble whole. That is to say, the organic American people do not exist as a consolidated people or state; they exist only as organized into distinct but inseparable States. Each State is a living member of the one body, and derives its life from its union with the body, so that the American state is one body with many members; and the members, instead of being simply individuals, are States, or individuals organized into States, The body consists of many members, and is one body, because the members are all members of it, and members one of another. It does not exist as separate or distinct from the members, but exists in their solidarity or membership one of another. There is no sovereign people or existence of the United States distinguishable from the people or existence of the particular States united. The people of the United States, the state called the United States, are the people of the particular States united.

Orestes Brownson, The American Republic, Chapter XI.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Democratic Principle

I cannot conceive a more profoundly philosophic, or more admirably devised constitution, than that of our own government, as I have endeavored truthfully to present it in my American Republic. Yet, for the lack of the moral element in the American people, for the lack of a recognition of the law of nations emanating from an authority above the people, and binding the consciences of the nation, it is practically disregarded, and its wisest and most vital provisions are treated by the ruling people as non avenues. The people have forgotten its providential origin, treat it as their own creature, as a thing they have made, and may alter or unmake at their pleasure. It is not a law enjoined on them, and has no hold on their conscience. They give it a purely democratic interpretation. Men talk of loyalty, but men cannot be loyal to what is below them and dependent on their breath; and, therefore, they violate it without compunction, as often as prompted to do so by their interests or their passions.

[Orestes Brownson, "Democratic Principle", Brownson's Quarterly Review, April 1873.]

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Fortnightly Book, December 4

Literature, like much of art, is curious in that it admits of a category of successful failure. For the artist, it is in some sense even harder to handle than failure. At least failure shuts the door sharply; successful failure is an ongoing frustration as you seem to have the means but can never quite get the ends. You make an ingenious and delicious cake, and add a light touch of icing to make that excellence even more perfect -- and everyone just licks off the icing. And the worst of it, the very worst of it, is that it can happen even when you did everything right, and the failure can be due to things over which you have no control at all.

Georgette Heyer set out to write literarily polished and meticulously researched historical novels on serious moral themes, with a touch of romantic comedy. She was successful by most standards of authorial success. Her books were widely read, sold well, and were praised. And they were widely read, sold well, and were praised for reasons that had little to do with any of the things she hoped to achieve. Her works sold not as historical novels but as romances; romance is lucrative, but in everybody's mind it means sentimental froth for throw-away reading; reviewers treated intensively researched works as light holiday fiction; her very enthusiastic readers kept demanding more of what she herself regarded as among the least important parts of what she was writing. She was the Queen of Regency Romance and yet 'Regency Romance' at the same time became a patronizing label. She was working toward a major magnum opus that she could never finish because lighter works (and need for the money they brought in) kept demanding her time. Heyer could no more stop writing than she could stop breathing, so she continued to write, and continued to do well by all of the standards she regarded as least important, but she withdrew into herself and soon became notoriously averse to any and every kind of publicity. It's not that she was necessarily always miserable over it, or even very worried; her devotion to the craft was quite intense, and the success wasn't without its consolations. But there hangs over all of her career a sense of the important things still not yet done. And it still had that air at her death, at age 71, in 1974.

Nonetheless, posterity has treated her well, even if it has not raised her to the level appropriate to her undeniable talents. She has consistently been on the shelves, and, most importantly, her works have the one and only mark that matters for great literature: they keep being read by people who love to read. And she brings us the next fortnightly book, A Civil Contract, published in 1961. Viscount Lynton, a veteran of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), returns home after his father's death to find the family finances in complete disarray. Nothing can save it but to marry into wealth, despite being in love with another woman, and it looks like it will be a miserable marriage -- but marriage itself can be an education in what really matters.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped


Opening Passage:
I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house. The sun began to shine upon the summit of the hills as I went down the road; and by the time I had come as far as the manse, the blackbirds were whistling in the garden lilacs, and the mist that hung around the valley in the time of the dawn was beginning to arise and die away.

Mr. Campbell, the minister of Essendean, was waiting for me by the garden gate, good man! He asked me if I had breakfasted; and hearing that I lacked for nothing, he took my hand in both of his and clapped it kindly under his arm.

“Well, Davie, lad,” said he, “I will go with you as far as the ford, to set you on the way.” And we began to walk forward in silence.

“Are ye sorry to leave Essendean?” said he, after awhile.

Summary: At the death of his father, David Balfour is sent to the house of an uncle he had never known he had, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. As he approaches the House of Shaws, he asks for directions, and everyone he talks to says dark things about it. His meeting of his uncle will have significant repercussions as Balfour is nearly killed, then sold into slavery, shipwrecked, and chased across the Highlands of Scotland. Along the way he will meet the Highland hero, Alan Breck Stewart, and with the help of the mercurial man's friendship come into his rightful inheritance.

Structurally, the novel builds itself around an actual historical event, the Appin Murder, which it lightly fictionalizes. The real events, more or less, are these. Campbell was the local Factor collecting rents from Stewart lands that had been seized by the English. He was shot by a sniper on May 14, 1752. The chief suspect was Alan Breck Stewart, who was known to be in Scotland collecting rents from the poor locals, who thus had to pay two rents, and recruiting soldiers for the French Crown; he had also previously threatened Campbell. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but he eluded capture, so they arrested his foster father, James Stewart. James was tried, convicted, and hung for accessory to murder by a court that consisted of a Campbell for a judge (the Duke of Argyll) and a jury consisting of eleven members of the Campbell clan and four people dependent on the Duke of Argyll. Alan was tried and convicted in absentia. He vanished without a trace, and nobody knows what happened to him. It has come to be almost universally thought that he was probably innocent of the murder.

This being a major load-bearing element in the tale, it is not surprising, then, that Alan Breck Stewart ends up dominating most of the story. The novel in fact can be seen as a frame-story (David and his uncle) giving a context for a main story (David and Alan). But Stevenson manages to balance this by giving us a very independent-minded David, who is often by himself, and is not just a sidekick. The characterizations are, in fact, universally good; nearly every character is vivid and distinctive. David, too, is well done -- obviously intelligent and capable, but obviously seventeen.

Many of the passages in the work that I enjoyed long ago held up very well -- David on the tower stairs, the defense of the round house, and, in some ways the most masterful scene in the book, the contest between Alan Breck Stewart and Robin Oig. And the Highland atmosphere, sympathetic and yet sometimes frankly rendered, gives the whole tale an enduring charm.

Favorite Passage: This has pretty much always been my favorite passage:

...And presently he sat down upon the table, sword in hand; the air that he was making all the time began to run a little clearer, and then clearer still; and then out he burst with a great voice into a Gaelic song.

I have translated it here, not in verse (of which I have no skill) but at least in the king’s English. He sang it often afterwards, and the thing became popular; so that I have heard it and had it explained to me, many’s the time.

“This is the song of the sword of Alan:
The smith made it,
The fire set it;
Now it shines in the hand of Alan Breck.

“Their eyes were many and bright,
Swift were they to behold,
Many the hands they guided:
The sword was alone.

“The dun deer troop over the hill,
They are many, the hill is one;
The dun deer vanish,
The hill remains.

“Come to me from the hills of heather,
Come from the isles of the sea.
O far-beholding eagles,
Here is your meat.”

Recommendation: Highly Recommended.