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Archive for January, 2007

My son Joseph, who is almost 7, unlike his older brothers Luke and Patric,
was not very interested in baseball when he was small. The older boys had begun
to play ball when they were toddlers, but Joey would just say "No, that ball is
too hard."

However, last spring he decided he wanted to play baseball after all.
Patric’s coaches convinced us that he would learn more in coach-pitch than in
Tee Ball, so we signed him up with Patric’s Little League team, the Mudcats. The
coaches no doubt thought they were acquiring a valuable player in Patric’s
little brother, for my older son’s early interest had shaped a skillful
ballplayer.

If they were disappointed in Joey the novice they didn’t betray it.

For Joseph was afraid of the ball, mostly looking away as he held his glove
in the general direction when it came near him. And he struck out at bat time
after time, even though he crossed himself before the pitch.

At 6, he was the youngest and smallest (and I dare say the cutest) player
on the team. After he struck out he would hang his head and walk slowly back to
the bench, dragging the bat behind him, to a chorus of "aw" and "he’s so cute!"
from the ladies in the stands.

I am happy to report that as the summer progressed he got better, and as we
continued to play ball after the Little League season ended he overcame his fear
of the ball to become a decent fielder and also began hitting consistently when
at bat.

Next season looks promising.

It was a very good year: the Mudcats only lost one game all season and made
it to the final game of the playoffs, which they lost, placing second in the
League.

My older son, Luke, played for the Aeros, a team that was undefeated until
the final game of the playoffs, which they lost, placing second.

Patric made the All Stars, and that team was undefeated until the final
playoff, which they lost, again finishing in second place.

I was not at all surprised when our favorite Major League team, the Detroit
Tigers, ended up losing the World Series. It was a second place kind of
year.

So, all in all a spectacular season.

But my favorite memory of baseball last year was one of Joseph, playing his
usual field position of Contemplative Field, ie, Right Field.

He looked tiny out there in the vast empty boringness of the loneliest
position in baseball, when he called out to me, sitting in the stands: "Daddy! I
think I hear a pecking bird!"

And he began looking off to the distant trees, trying to spot the "pecking
bird". I had to call to him to watch the game, provoking another round of "aw"
and "isn’t he cute?" from his lady fans.

For though Joey has not always loved baseball, he has always loved
birds.

From the time he was a toddler he has been fascinated by them, prevailing
upon us to put up feeders and buy him books. For a couple of years now he has
packed his binoculars and field guide on our car trips. He mostly sees the
common larger birds, of course: various hawks, buzzards and the like, though he
did spot a young bald eagle last fall. And once, driving to Michigan, he said he
saw a fairy fly up from the bushes on the side of the road. I don’t know what he
saw; a dragonfly maybe. Or perhaps a hummingbird. Or maybe a fairy.

Michelle, wishing to encourage his interest, got on the mailing list for
the local Audubon Society, and we saw in their newsletter that there was going
to be a slide presentation called "Woody’s Feathered Friends", featuring a local
photographer and bird lover. Figuring that Joey would love it, I decided to take
him.

I know that the National Audubon Society, like the other mainline
conservation groups- the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League- was on record
supporting legal abortion, a position arrived at by way of concern for
overpopulation. But I figured a meeting of local birdwatchers would have nothing
to do with the national organization’s broader political agenda.

As we drove to the meeting we talked excitedly.

"I wonder if there will be any other children", Joey said.

I said, "I wonder how many people there will be."

Joey said, "I wonder if there will be any sweets."

We arrived at the meeting place, a large Protestant church of the
"progressive" persuasion.

There were numerous meetings and rehearsals being held in the sprawling
complex and it took three or four tries before we found the Audubon meeting, a
group of perhaps thirty people, which had already begun. Joseph and I appeared
to be the only people in the room under the age of 60. We apologized for being
late, introduced ourselves and sat in the front row, so Joey would have a clear
view of the screen. We were warmly welcomed, and everyone seemed delighted to
have such a young bird enthusiast among them.

As the business meeting droned on I began to worry that my son would get
restless, and I was pleased when the moderator said "And finally, one last piece
of business."

My relief was short lived, though, for he proceeded to announce that one of
the members had recently attended a conference on population and the environment
in Washington, D.C.

My heart sunk. Joey would be disappointed if we walked out, and I was
irritated by a world where you take your young bird-loving son to something
called "Woody’s Feathered Friends" and you are confronted by the antinatal
globalist agenda.

"Of course, when you say ‘population’ people immediately think you are
talking about abortion, but that has nothing to do with it", the moderator said, and I
could hear the muttered "No, no"s and "Of course not"s.

The woman who had attended the conference stood up and told us all about
her excellent adventure, how the national organization had flown the delegates
to DC, how they had stayed in a nice hotel, all meals provided. And she gushed
about how wonderful it was to feel like she was doing something to help
bring family planning to developing nations.

When she was done I raised my hand. "But it’s not that simple, is it? I
mean isn’t someone flying on a jet plane to Washington for a conference doing
more environmental damage than the average third world peasant family does in a
lifetime? For that matter doesn’t an affluent American family with two children
consume more than several poor families with six?"

Sitting in the front row I couldn’t see the expressions my comment evoked,
but I heard a few chuckles and sounds of assent.

The chairman said that well, that may be so, but surely we needed to think
about ways to address overpopulation.

I granted that there are local instances of population straining resources,
but isn’t the problem globally one more of overconsumption by the West and
unjust distribution of resources? After all, there are densely populated
countries- like the Netherlands and Japan- that are neither impoverished nor the
scenes of ecological crisis.

Well that is certainly an interesting perspective, but we, uh, need to get
on with the program.

He proceeded to introduce the presenter, Forrest "Woody" Newport, with a
few words about his background and qualifications.

Woody walked to the front, a bespectacled pleasant looking man in his mid
60s.

He started by addressing Joseph, welcoming him and noting that his own
interest in birds and wildlife began when he was a young boy.

He then started the slide show and asked Joey if he could identify the
first striking photo.

"Yes, that is a female cardinal", said Joey to a murmur of approval.

The image, and the ones that followed, were spectacular. I don’t know if it
was the act of enlarging the photos to the screen, or the gift of a loving eye,
but Woody Newport’s photography vividly revealed the many hued and subtle beauty
of his subjects.

He spoke with contagious reverence and affection for the natural world and
for wild birds. He clearly was a patient and persistent photographer and his
work was outstanding.

Joseph enjoyed himself immensely, and whispered correct identifications for
most of the birds.

Afterwards there were indeed sweets, homemade nut breads and a heavily
sugared fruit drink that left my son’s lips bright red.

Many of the people came up, thanked us for coming and invited us back.

Woody encouraged Joey to begin sketching the birds he saw in a special
notebook.

The woman who had attended the conference did not speak to us.

We were invited to join the club, which we obviously cannot do, though I
plan on taking Joseph to other events that they sponsor, especially the workshop
on hand-feeding chickadees.

This is the dilemma for those of us who revere the natural world and
created things, who don’t want to see the fragile and tender beauty at the wild
heart of the world destroyed by bulldozers: the organizations that exist to
protect wildlife do not appear to recognize that human cycles are natural
cycles, too, that the human ecology- the ecology of the microcosm- should no
more be violated than the world ecology, the ecology of the macrocosm.

By chance, though, on the literature table we found a brochure for the Ohio
Ornithological Society, which appears to be more narrowly focused on
birdwatching and protection of habitats, without a broader political
agenda.

I’ll have to investigate further, of course, but if it checks out my son
Joseph may soon become the newest member of the OCC.

There is a photo of Joseph Nichols, about a year and a half ago, on the
bottom of the "About the Iconographer" page on the Eighth Day Icons website
here.

–Daniel Nichols

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Mr. Martins, From The Other Side

On seeing The Third Man.

Maclin Horton

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Until it was mentioned on Open Book today. Here it is. Very attractive. She doesn’t post very often, it appears.

Maclin Horton

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Is Wagner Bad for You?

Maclin Horton

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Children of Men

I don’t get out much, but the other night I ventured out to a movie theatre
to see the film Children of Men.

I remember reading reviews of the P.D. James novel on which it is based in
the early 90s and making a mental note to read the book, which I never got
around to doing.

So I cannot compare the book to the film nor comment on how well it made
the transition from page to screen. I am told that some who read the book were
not pleased with the film, but I am here viewing the film as a thing unto
itself.

Children of Men is set a couple of decades in the future, in an
England gone to seed. The world is in chaos;  "Britain soldiers on", in the
words of the propaganda broadcasts, but only as a brutal police state.

Immigrants are rounded up, caged and shipped out. Random violence – both
revolutionary and criminal- is endemic. Religious extremists, both Christian and
Muslim, have taken to the streets. The government heavily promotes a suicide
drug.

And the world is childless: the youngest person on the planet has just been
murdered, at the age of 18, as the film begins.

The protagonist, Theo, is a former radical, now a cynical hard-drinking
government bureaucrat. His sole escape from the drudgery is an occasional visit
to an old hippie friend who lives in a cabin in the woods.

Theo had had a child once, many years ago, who had died in an influenze
epidemic, and after the death of the child Theo and the child’s mother had split
up.

She reappears, now the leader of the Fishes, a revolutionary group, and
prevails upon him by a mixture of bribery, memory and residual love to escort a
mysterious African woman to the coast, where a ship from the Human Project will
take her out of England to their refuge in the Azores.

The woman, Kee, is heavy with child, and as soon as this is revealed to
Theo something awakens in him and his transformation from world-weary cynic to
selfless saviour begins.

The overtly Christian themes are obvious: the child who is the hope of the
world, threatened on all sides, a journey to safety under the protection of a
just man, and the conversion of that man.

The grace at the heart of Children of Men is most vivid in the two
brief moments of stillness in an otherwise frenetic film.

The first of these occurs just after the child is born in the midst of the
chaos of a pitched street battle between rebels and government forces. As the
child’s cries pierce the sounds of war the gunfire begins to slow, then stop.
The woman carries her baby through the parting crowd of refugees and combatants.
Several people cross themselves and a woman’s voice is heard praying the Hail
Mary.

In the second, a gypsy woman leads Theo and Kee to shelter, the home of
Eastern European refugee squatters, where Kee finally has a moment of joy,
holding her baby in peace. On the walls are a Slavic three-barred cross and
icons.

It is odd to say of a work that portrays so much that is ugly and squalid,
but Children of Men is a beautiful film.

That said, I must warn you that it is not for everyone. The pace is
relentless, the violence brutal and graphic, the peril constant. I left the
theatre emotionally exhausted, and I felt like I had been holding my breath from
the opening scenes until the final credits.

It is a film which can only be described as prophetic, not in the sense of
being a precise prediction of a future world, but rather in speaking truth to
this one. The death wish of the West, the failure to have children -especially
in Europe- is at the heart of an emerging crisis

P.D. James’ dystopia is recognizably this world, albeit exaggerated.

And like the outlook for this world, Children of Men offers us, in
the end, both tragedy and hope.

Daniel Nichols

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Big Drunk

I thought the midterm elections had halted President Bush’s momentum toward expanding his imperial dreams but recent events, beginning with his much anticipated speech last week, have proven me wrong.

I said in my last post that we must pray for the President. By all means pray harder.

I said once in Caelum et Terra, the magazine, that America was like a big drunk lurching downhill. You might not be able to stop him, but at least you can get out of the way.

The image has changed. The big drunk has you in a headlock and all you can do is pray.

The columnist Georgie Ann Geyer sketches as precisely as I have seen the trouble we are in here.

Daniel Nichols

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A Couple of Miscellaneous But Not Entirely Unrelated Items

Creary (as a Taiwanese professor of mine used to say) we need some more posts in here. I think Daniel and I are not entirely sure what this blog is about anymore.

Maclin Horton

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