Archive for October, 2013

Autumnal Ephemera

  • The chimes that rang with no wind (see August 26 ’13 in the archives) are gone. I stopped on Saturday, when the owner was home, to ask him if he removed them because they were haunted. He said no, and was amused by my story. He just said that they kept him awake at night.
  • I have not painted in about two months. I figured I would have some time when I stayed home after Sam’s birth; I usually take two weeks off work,  and while the first is hectic, the second allows for some leisure. But becausePeach Tree (Autumn) – Van Goghthis birth was so intense and my bride so worn out not only did I end up taking a month off (with pay, thank God and the Union) but there was not a moment of rest. I had hoped to work on an icon I began ages ago today, my day off, but this fussy baby put a damper on that, and I ended up running the two homeschooled children up to North Canton to  a classical co-op they have been attending, and hanging out in the local library….
  • My recently acquired car -I hesitate to call something with 159,000 miles on it “new”- has a CD player, so I have been listening to some music I haven’t heard in years. And while I think Dylan, his voice having blown its last gasket years ago, has slipped into a rather formulaic mode -tight band, classic American music- I have a new appreciation for his early stuff, which was pretty breathtaking. And funny: there is a song on Bringing It All Back Home  called “On the Road Again”, that starts out “Woke up this morning there were frogs inside my socks” and has the great line “So they gave me brown rice, seaweed and a dirty hot dog”. Which is the photo I want to send to Rod Dreher’s blog, as he has asked readers to send him pictures of their dinner (!), which so far has resulted in a lot of intimate shots of bourgeois life…
  • So the Democrats are all breathless about Wendy Davis running for Texas governor? Listen, the woman made her name agitating for absolutely no restrictions on abortion at any stage. Polls show that most Americans reject that stance, feeling sympathy for babies when they start to look like babies (there is a reason that prolife groups generally show late-term fetuses). Getting all excited about someone that far from the mainstream is about as stupid as the Tea Partiers thinking that shutting down the government in a hissy fit was a good idea. Dumb Evil Party, meet Evil Dumb Party.
  • Speaking of prolifers, they need to change their tone. It is safe to say that absolutely no late term abortions are performed on a whim, because the mom suddenly decided that 6 or 8 months into the thing that she doesn’t want a baby. It is always serious: birth defects, or a prognosis of a short and painful life. That does not make it right, but to not acknowledge this makes one look callous and foolish. Similarly, early abortions are not a recreational activity. Few abortions are not accompanied by the tears of the mother. Prolifers who ignore this are not going to convince anyone of anything. Again, the fact that this “choice” is a painful one, not a casual one, does not make abortion right, but I have been increasingly finding “prolifers” annoying, and not just because of their inconsistencies in endorsing GOP social and foreign policy.

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Beer Inc Wants It All


Recent years have seen a phenomenal growth in what are called “craft beers”: small independent breweries brewing flavorful alternatives to the mainstream thin American lagers. New breweries are opening almost every day and craft beer now accounts for 6.5% of all beer sold in the US, and the number is growing.

Now, you would think that Big Beer; ie, Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors, would be content with over 90% of the market, but no. They want it all.

To that end Anheuser Busch purchased Goose Island in 2011. And Duvel, a Belgian megabrewer, recently purchased Boulevard Brewers, a craft brewery.

And they have been busy marketing their own “crafty” beers: Blue Moon, Leinenkugels, and Shock Top are all owned by the Big Brewers.

And more of the same is bound to follow as craft beers continue to grow. There will be other offers; Lauganita’s, a California brewer of fine beers, has said that Anheuser Busch has made overtures. They refused, but others may not be so principled. After all, to be offered a huge amount of money, so that one could, instead of having all the headaches of running a business, live without a care? That is a temptation that few of us will ever face. Not everyone is a Bill Watterson, you know.

The situation resembles the organic food movement in the eighties, when pure food  became popular. There were all sorts of organic companies, small and thriving. Then Big Food took notice, and today you may buy something with a poetic name that sounds like it was made by benevolent hippies, which at one time it no doubt was, but today is owned by Cargill or General Mills. Apparently few organic entrepreneurs could say no to the Offer You Can’t Refuse.

The term “capitalist pig” is an old one, viewed as over-the-top by most, but if you know anything about pigs it is pretty apt.

I know about pigs. I lived on a communal farm when I was a young man. Our cash crop was hogs. I have observed a group of pigs at a trough full of slop. One of them will be, well, hogging out and out of the corner of his eye will notice that the pig next to him is hogging out as well. And he will push the other pig out of the way to get his slop.

And so Big Beer is not content to own over 90% of the market. They, like the hog at the trough, want it all.

Let us hope that small brewers will possess the commitment to resist their attempts, to say no to corporate beer.

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Look, I’m not saying they are all wrong. Sometimes the best I can do is to recite the Litany of Peace from the Divine Liturgy (which happens to be a perfect prayer). It is just that they seem to totally miss Francis’ point, which it that prayer must be from the heart to truly be called prayer. Yes, of course, sometimes this can be so-called repetitive prayer.

After dealing with that, they broaden the discussion to include all the things that traditionalist and other conservative Catholics don’t like about Francis.

But then there is the delivery, which can only be called comic. It is really hard to believe that this is not caricature, a sort of Catholic Saturday Night Live.

And I say this fully cognitive of the fact that Mr Ferrera has been a faithful opponent of the libertarian/neocon attempt to hijack Catholic social teaching. It’s just that his other views are such a caricature.

At this point Matt and Ferrera are my favorite Catholic comedians.

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…I was driving and listening to this tune when the harvest moon appeared, large and golden. Synchronicity… I always think of my beloved when I hear this.

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Dear Tea Party:

Thank you so much for causing the GOP to self-destruct. We really couldn’t have done it without you.


The Rest of Us

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A very fine piece on restoring justice, by Gar Alperovitz,  from The Nation:
“Everyone knows the United States faces enormous challenges: unemployment, poverty, global warming, environmental decay—to say nothing of whole cities that have essentially been thrown away. We know the economic system is dominated by powerful corporate institutions. And we know the political system is dominated by those same institutions. Elections occur and major fiscal debates ensue, but most of the problems are only marginally affected (and often in ways that increase the burdens).The issue is not simply that our situation is worrisome. It is that the nation’s most pressing problems are built into the structure of the system. They are not unique to the current economic slump or the result of partisan bickering, something passing in the night that will go away when we elect forward-looking leaders and pressure them to move in a different direction.  only has the economy been stagnating for a long time, but for the average family, things have been bad for a very long time. Real wages for 80 percent of workers have not gone up more than a trivial amount for at least three decades. At the same time, income for the top 1 percent has jumped from roughly 10 percent of all income to more than 20 percent. A recent estimate is that a mere 400 individuals in the United States own more wealth than the bottom 180 million Americans taken together.

Unfortunately, what we call traditional politics no longer has much capacity to alter most of the negative trends. To be clear: I think projects, organizing, demonstrations and related efforts are important. But deep down, most people sense—rightly, in my view—that unless we develop a more powerful long-term strategy, those efforts aren’t going to make much of a dent.

“In 2007, people got excited about federal legislation raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. This was obviously good, but the long-term negative trend continued nonetheless. The minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, was more than $2 higher in 1968. Clearly, when great victories don’t even get us back to where we were more than forty years ago, we need to pay close attention. I support such efforts, but it appears unlikely that strategies aimed at reviving the politics that produced the New Deal and Great Society programs are going to alter the big trends, even if those strategies are intensified by movement building—especially given the decline of labor unions, the power base of traditional progressive politics.

There is, however, a little-noticed twist to this otherwise bleak narrative. Deepening economic and social pain are producing the kinds of conditions from which various new forms of democratization—of ownership, wealth and institutions—are beginning to emerge. The challenge is to develop a broad strategy that not only ends the downward spiral but also gives rise to something different: steadily changing who actually owns the system, beginning at the bottom and working up.”

Read more here:


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When Giants Die


As I have said before,  my mail route, much of it, looks like a park with houses. Huge old trees dominate: oaks, maples, spruces, beeches.

One house in particular is in a beautiful setting. On one side stood a row of evergreens; I think they were firs. In the front yard, an enormous towering sugar maple. In the back, one of the largest black oaks on the route.

Last week, the evergreens were cut down. And today, all the larger limbs on the maple had been removed, leaving only the trunk. I assume that tomorrow that will be gone.

What’s left of the tree looked sound, and I wondered at what motivated the owner to take down such a glorious tree.

Driving by later, I saw the tree crew out in front. I stopped and asked why the man was cutting down his trees. The foreman said that he was tired of trees over his roof, that the leaves and such damaged it. Not only that, he said, he is taking down the oak as well. To his credit, the man expressed dismay at having to kill healthy trees.

This oak is glorious, huge and ancient, a veritable archetype.

I may have grieved when my favorite beech was mutilated a couple of months back, but this is far worse: the death of two giants at the hand of man, a slap in the face of God.

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