Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On the continuity of religious ritual

I've been wanting to write something up about how at Mass we worship God just as Homer described his guys doing 3000 years ago, and how this is essentially different from Protestant worship and is cited as proof that them Catlickers are a bunch of pagans, etc.; but the continuity of the human "how" of divine worship is a powerful proof that we've got it right - we worship the way mankind has always worshiped.

From the beginning of book 3 of the Odyssey in Fitzgerald's translation:

The sun rose on the flawless brimming sea
into a sky all brazen --- all one brightening
for gods immortal and for mortal men
on plowlands kind with grain.
                               And facing sunrise
the voyagers now lay off Pylos town,
compact stronghold of Neleus.  On the shore
black bulls were being offered by the people
to the blue-maned god who makes the islands tremble:
nine congregations, each five hundred strong,
led out nine bulls apiece to sacrifice,
taking the tripes to eat, while on their altars
thighbones in fat lay burning for the god.
See what he did there? That's a bare outline of the liturgy of the Eucharist. The congregations face east, the people offer a sacrifice to a god by placing it on an altar and burning it, and they eat part of the sacrifice. While Homer wasn't writing a liturgical handbook, he has captured the essence of how mankind has always worshiped the divine.

The differences: our offering is a man who is also the God being worshiped; our sacrificial victim died once and not at every offering; and we eat the victim.

Now, I was gonna scour Homer and the other ancients for other instances of divine worship and write up some more stuff in this vein, but it's 1:57 a.m.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blast and damn

My wordpress blog at http://summa.motd.org seems to have been disabled or compromised, so I'm back here for a while, at least. Or maybe I'll quit my gyrovague ways, settle down here, and enjoy some Benedictine stability.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I'm at http://summa.motd.org nowadays

The itch to wander has struck again. I've reset Summa Minutiae back to zero with new posting guidelines back at my webspace at work, http://members.wolfram.com/billw/summa. No comments there yet; I might figure that out sometime.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Poetry Wednesday

Sonnet 101 from Fulke Greville's Caelica:

In night when colours all to black are cast,
    Distinction lost, or gone down with the light ;
The eye a watch to inward senses plac'd,
    Not seeing, yet still having power of sight,
Gives vain alarums to the inward sense,
    Where fear stirr'd up with witty tyranny,
Confounds all powers, and thorough self-offence
    Doth forge and raise impossibility ;
Such as in thick-depriving darkness
    Proper reflections of the error be ;
And images of self-confusedness,
    Which hurt imaginations only see,
And from this nothing seen, tells news of devils ;
Which but expressions be of inward evils.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Noted in passing

On election night, 2008, I signed up for Barack Obama's mailing list under the name Fred Mertz. I get a regular supply of spam from them, sent from Organizing for America and BarackObama.com. In the last week or so they've really stepped up the volume with abject pleas and imperious demands for more and more money. This desperate barrage of requests for money is getting really annoying - I've never seen anything like it from any other spammer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Regulations and guidance

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology webpage describes how a centralized bureaucracy will control your medical treatment in near-real time based on your electronic medical records, the doctor's diagnosis and the government's needs. They also offer Regulations and Guidance. I suspect there's something in the phrase "Regulations and Guidance" that makes a liberal sigh with contentment like a toddler with a warm blankie and a dry diaper.

Take your camera

I may as well toss this out into the aether before next Tuesday: take your camera with you when you vote. If anything looks suspicious, take pictures & videos and post them. The party that controls your local election infrastructure has plenty of motivation to cheat this year.

Poetry Wednesday

The first part of Sidney's Psalm 139 (read it aloud to feel it in your mouth - somehow these words direct an elegant dance):

O Lord, O Lord, in me there lieth nought
    But to thy search revealed lies,
            For when I sit
            Thou markest it;
    No less thou notest when I rise;
Yea, closest closet of my thought
    Hath open windows to thine eyes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A lot left to run

Here is John Derbyshire's delightful introduction to 1910 at the beginning of a recent speech:
Let me do a little scene-setting here. It is March of 1910 — just 100 years and change ago. William Howard Taft is in the White House; Edward the Seventh, very nearly Taft's equal in girth, was on the British throne. China's last Emperor was in the Forbidden City, and the Russian Empress was under the spell of Rasputin.

Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy were still alive. The population of the U.S.A. was 92 million, including 450,000 veterans of the Civil War (North and South) and 162 households recorded in the census of that year as "living in polygamy." Thirteen percent of us were foreign born. Total government spending was eight percent of GDP.

The automobile was settling in, airplanes were still a novelty, Picasso was painting, Mahler was composing, Nijinsky was dancing, Caruso was singing, H.G. Wells was writing, and Mary Pickford had just started in the movies. The year's hit pop song was "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."

Adolf Hitler was living in a homeless shelter in Vienna, Lenin was writing angry pamphlets in cheap rooming houses, Stalin was on the run from the Tsar's secret police, FDR was a lawyer on Wall Street, Churchill was Trade Secretary in H.H. Asquith's cabinet, Gandhi was agitating for civil rights in South Africa, and Mao Tse-Tung was in high school. Barry Goldwater was in diapers and Ronald Reagan was a twinkle in his Dad's eye.

There was a lot of 20th century still to run.
Men versus the Man is available in its entirety at blessed Google Books.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Someone needs to get out more

Maybe walk to the liberry and read a few books. "Thanks to a song in the 1940s, Money is the Root of All Evil has become a common phrase." -- Adam Dachis at lifehacker.com

Sunday, October 24, 2010

With a little help from his friends

I see here that the emperor of the world plans to visit Bombay next month. It seems he can't travel anywhere without the entire imperial retinue of janissaries, sycophants and jesters. Why not just stay home and do the whole thing via videoconference?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Graveyard fun

My periodic immersion in early American history led to the discovery of Okau Settlement, a forgotten community of 30 or so families who, in the 1820s and 1830s, pioneered an area a couple of miles north of my hometown of Findlay, Illinois, 50 years before Findlay was founded. It turns out that there are also many old cemeteries in that neighborhood, not one of which has been put online so I can tour it from my comfy office chair.

So I had a bright idea yesterday: take the whole family out to these old cemeteries to explore and document them by taking gps-tagged photos of each headstone, then putting all the information online with photos, coordinates, maps and transcriptions. Then, by golly, I and everyone else could tour these old cemeteries from our comfy office chairs.

Update: looks like I need to google for advice about how to conduct a cemetery survey.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This makes me want to puke

The church in which I was baptized has been thoroughly desecrated. Goddamned pagan bastards.

Frederick Jackson Turner on books about the West

America's finest historian of the frontier[1] took some time to write a book about books about the West. And he did it in 1915, so everything he listed is fair game for Google Books. If you don't hear from me in a while, you know where I'll be.

[1]: Consider than in 1620, the Western frontier began about 20 miles west of the Atlantic coast. Unless you're reading this from your beachhouse on the Atlantic, you're living in what was once the wild, wild West.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wisdom from Instapundit

Lege: "One of the underappreciated virtues of good manners is that they help you to avoid making an ass of yourself when you are not as smart as you think you are."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remember "shovel-ready"?

That was a popular criterion used to allocate "stimulus" money last year - is the project shovel-ready? Will it put a few unionized construction guys to work now? Gee, it turns out that "shovel-ready" means that projects requiring planning, design and bidding, like road construction and repair, often didn't have a chance to get funded under the deadlines in the "stimulus" bill.
Hopefully it worked better elsewhere, but in this area (Whittier), here is where the stimulus went: beautification projects. Instead of fixing the cracked and broken streets, we got new flower beds down the median. When asked, city officials said the time frame on the stimulus money was such that they weren’t able to do the process (identify needs, make plans, get bids) for getting the streets fixed and meet the stimulus package deadlines, so they did what they could. Beautification projects take much less time to plan and implement. So, instead of repairing infrastructure, we got something else that needs to be maintained and uses more water in this drought stricken area, but the city can say they got their share of the stimulus money.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A list of fallacious arguments

It's really quite comprehensive.

Dason de Viger: 1629-1747

A death notice in The Scots Magazine of 1747:
Jan. 13, 1747. At Lourdes, in the diocese of Tarbes, in France, aged 118, Sieur Dason de Viger, who had been a Captain in the guards under M. d'Albret. He married after he was 100 years old.
The same, from volume 14 of De Navorscher, which seems to have been a Dutch gentleman's magazine (which phrase back then didn't have its modern pornographic connotation):
Dason De Viger, gewezen kapitein der guardes van den maarschalk D'Albret, + 13 febr 1747 te Lourdes, in 't stift van Farbes, oud 118 j. Met zijn 100ate jaar was hij nog hertrouwd, en 14 dagen vóór zijn dood nog op de jagt geweest.
Google translates this from the Dutch as:
The Dason Viger, former captain of guardes of Marshal D'Albret, + 13 Feb. 1747 in Lourdes, in 't pin Farbes, aged 118 j[aar, years]. In his 100th year he was still married, and 14 days before his death was still on the hunt.
Marshal D'Albret, under whom our aged hero served, is probably César Phoebus d'Albret, Count of Miossens. The Abbé d'Aumont, who had taken a box at the Comédie that the Marshal commanded for his own, was heard to remark, "A fine Marshal! He has never stormed anything except my box!"

Dr Hamilton's travels

Dr Alexander Hamilton of Maryland embarked on a tour of the colonies in the summer of 1744 and wrote entertainingly of his travels. On the evening of May 31, 1744, he stopped at Tradaway's (or Treadway's) inn, ten miles north of Joppa, Maryland:
Just as I dismounted at Tradaway's, I found a drunken Club dismissing. Most of them had got upon their horses, and were seated in an oblique situation, deviating much from a perpendicular to the horizontal plane, a posture quite necessary for keeping the center of gravity within its proper base, for the support of the superstructure; hence we deduce the true physical reason why our heads overloaded with liquor become too ponderous for our heels. Their discourse was as oblique as their position: the only thing intelligible in it was oaths and Goddamnes; the rest was an inarticulate sound like Rabelais' frozen words a-thawing, interlaced with hickupings and belchings. I was uneasy till they were gone, and my landlord, seeing me stare, made that trite apology, "That indeed he did not care to have such disorderly fellows come about his house; he was always noted far and near for keeping a quiet house and entertaining only gentlemen or such like; but these were country people, his neighbours, and it was not prudent to disoblige them upon slight occasions. "Alas, sir!" added he, "we that entertain travellers must strive to oblige everybody, for it is our daily bread." While he spoke thus our Bacchanalians finding no more rum in play, rid off helter-skelter, as if the devil had possessed them, every man sitting his horse in a seesaw manner like a bunch of rags tied upon the saddle. I found nothing particular or worth notice in my landlord's character or conversation, only as to his bodily make. He was a fat pursy man, and had large bubbies like a woman. I supped upon fried chickens and bacon, and after supper the conversation turned upon politicks, news, and the dreaded French war; but it was so very lumpish and heavy that it disposed me mightily to sleep. This learned company consisted of the landlord, his overseer and miller, and another greasy-thumbed fellow, who, as I understood, professed physick, and particularly surgery in the drawing of teeth.

He practised upon the housemaid, a dirty piece of lumber, who made such screaming and squawling as made me imagine there was murder going forwards in the house. However, the artist got the tooth out at last, with a great clumsy pair of blacksmith's forceps; and indeed it seemed to require such an instrument, for when he showed it to us it resembled a horsenail more than a tooth.

The miller I found professed musick, and would have tuned his crowd to us, but unfortunately the two middle strings betwixt the bass and treble were broke. This man told us that he could play by the book.

After having had my fill of this elegant company, I went to bed at ten o'clock.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guide to the study and reading of American history

Every day I'm freshly amazed that Google Books is free. Here's the 1912 Guide to the study and reading of American history by Edward Channing, Albert Bushnell Hart and Frederick Jackson "Frontier" Turner.