Random Conjectures

"Act locally; bitch globally."

My comments on the abuse crisis of the RC Church

There has been a lot of talk about sexual abuse of the young among Roman Catholic (or RC) clergy. While I am a Russian Catholic, I am still in union with the RC Church, and so this affects me as well. I therefore have both a right and a duty, under both canon and American civil law, to talk about it.

Briefly, the nature of the crisis is this: the rate of sexual abuse, according to the Jay Report and other confirming studies, is 5% of the total number of RC clergy in Europe and North America. 80% of that is male-on-male, and the overwhelming majority of that abuse is of post-pubescent boys. By way of contrast, the rate of child abuse by adult males in the U.S. population is 1/20th of one percent, and 80% of that abuse is male-on-female, with only 20% involving male-on-male abuse.

In short, there are strong indicia that the cohort of child abusers among RC clergy are a part of a much larger cohort of actively gay males in the clergy. These indicia are borne out by the studies done over the last thirty years by the late A.W.S. Sipe, which indicate that as many as 50% of that clergy are both gay and non-celibate, in violation of their vows of chastity.

Regardless of the actual number or percentage of RC clergy who are actively gay, it appears obvious, from the Jay Report and the several state grand jury reports, that there has been a pattern and practice of RC gay or gay-sympathizing hierarchs to protect the abusers and the unchaste, at the expense of the lay faithful. Those faithful are now beginning to vote, either with their pocketbooks, in denying the clergy their tithes, or with their feet, by leaving the Church.

These actions by the lay faithful, while perhaps necessary, are by no means sufficient to correct the situation. In addition, they weaken the Church on earth, by further dividing people. A better solution would be to identify those clergy who are in violation of their vows, and to give them the choice of reform or retirement. Both the civil authorities, and rich Catholic laity, are in the process of conducting their own investigations.

But while a house cleaning of the Church is necessary, it is by no means sufficient. Our Lord has told us that if there is a house that was once possessed and has been cleaned, but remains empty, that many more demons will return to it, and the state of that house will be worse than it was to begin with. This is not only true of the house of our souls, but of the House of God as well.

The more fundamental cause of this crisis is a failure of faith. No one who actually believed the Gospels could possibly act as these clergy have. But ultimately, as we know that faith comes from hearing the word of God, that the ultimate failure was the failure to teach, or to hear, the word of God. And I must note that this failure to teach and to learn the faith was and is not limited to the clergy. Each and every one of us, as lay faithful, have failed in our duty to learn the faith, and to teach it to others.

Additionally, I think it is fair to say that what we are experiencing is the demonic possession of the Church itself. Hirelings who have shown themselves to be both sons of Eli and sons of Belial have entered the sheepfold, and have become our alleged shepherds. It is necessary that these false shepherds be cast out. But it is also necessary to find shepherds who will feed their sheep, instead of fleecing, starving, and abusing them.

But this is truly a dumb spirit, both in the sense of being silent, and also in the sense of being stupid. And we have been taught by our Lord that this type of spirit can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. So it must be for us, and for our Church, if we wish to cast out these demons which infest and infect Her.

So, let’s start with prayer. Our Lord has taught us, in Matthew 6, several things about how we are to pray: First, do it alone, and don’t talk about it to others. Second, KISS, or ‘keep it simple, sweetheart’. God already knows what you need. Third, it has long been a tradition that we pray for others, as well ourselves. Fourth, it has also been a tradition to set aside regular times for private prayer, and to use a set rule. Some use the Rosary. Others use the Office. Yet others use the Trisagion prayers. Of course, it has long been a tradition that we also pray together, either during the Divine Liturgy, or the hours. It’s worth considering, anyway.

Let’s move on to fasting. Again, in Matthew 6, Our Lord taught us not to make a show about it. Do it cheerfully. It has also been an apostolic tradition, first found in the Didache, that we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, to commemorate our Lord’s betrayal and crucifixion. It has also been a tradition that when we fast, we both cut down on the amount of food, and the types of food. Think vegan, and you’ve got the general idea. Don’t think so much as ‘giving up’ something, as putting it aside. And consider that in addition to fasting from food, you can also fast from certain actions and passions.

And, as long as we’ve been talking about Matthew 6, why don’t we move on to the part where our Lord talks about almsgiving. Other than our Lord’s usual thing about keeping quiet about it, you might want to consider the apostolic tradition of not just throwing money at the problem, but also, that set of acts and practices that have come down to us as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Try looking them up, and maybe even practicing them.

Finally, there has been an additional practice, which, while it is neither Dominical nor Apostolic, has long been a tradition of our Church: study. Study the Word of God, which, for Catholics, has been the following three things: Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church. Start reading the New Testament, and the Old. When you read the Old Testament, follow the ancient custom of our Church, and read not only the Hebrew Canon, but the Greek Canon (which includes the so-called Apocrypha) as well. Holy Tradition can be found in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Lives of the Saints. And the Magisterium, for Roman Catholics, consists of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the later Papal Councils (up to and including Vatican II), and the teachings of the Popes, which can be found in their writings.

And finally, if you are ambitious, why not try replicating in your studies the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council, in Optatam Totius, where they recommend the study of Latin, and the study of the languages of Scripture and Tradition, or Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Why not gain the humanistic, scientific, and philosophical patrimony of the Church, which makes an understanding of the Word of God possible? And why not use that combined knowledge to better inform and direct further studies in theology?

I dare say, that if the clergy had been faithful to the teachings of Optatam Totius to begin with, and reformed the education of priests accordingly, we wouldn’t be in the present mess. But, as the wag once said, the first step in getting one’s self out of a hole, is to stop digging. And then, just maybe, to look up instead of down. I think it’s worth a try.

The Humanities are Dead! Long live the Liberal Arts!

Now that I have your attention, I would like to give a funeral oration for the late, great humanities, and for the great universities, which are dying even as we speak. Perhaps an oration and a eulogy for both of them would be appropriate, for both the humanities and the universities, as the latter are the tomb and funeral pyre within which the former have suffocated, perished, and been burned alive.

Truly, the humanities, and the great universities from which they sprung, five or so centuries ago, were wonders to behold. They had taken the philosophical, literary, historical, and scientific knowledge of their time, and had so compounded them, one with another, so that their masters and exponents were replete with the knowledge and erudition of their age. Borne out of the European Renaissance, their scientists, scholars, and poets were the marvel of their age. From Pico della Mirandola and Leonardo da Vinci all the way down to Isaac Newton and John Milton, they were equally conversant in the laboratories and literary salons of their day.

Over the many decades after them, however, changes slowly came to the humanities and the universities that housed them. Because of the advancement in knowledge of the scientists, and the multiplication of the scholiasts who made comment on the literature of the age, little by little the universities began the process of specialization into schools of literature, history, philosophy, and the sciences. This process was accelerated in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Germans, who encouraged their scholars and scientists to focus on narrow specializations, although, in all fairness to the Krauts, they still made their young scholars go through the gymnasien, which gave all of those students a general erudition, and a common fund of knowledge. And the English and the French of those days did much the same thing with their public schools and their êcoles, though they encouraged their university scholars toward a broader erudition than that of the Germans.

But it was in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the real mischief happened. It began with the realization that the sciences of engineering, chemistry, and physics could make weapons which would greatly increase the military and political power of the nation-states which held them. And, with the increased prestige of the physical sciences, American universities, and more to their point, their faculties, began to add the protective coloration of the name of ‘science’ to their new fields of political theory, sociology, psychology, economics, and anthropology, among many others (although, sad to tell, of their great number, only physical anthropology had the rigor of the physical sciences).

The consequences of all of the above were obvious to anyone who was actually paying attention. Alas, though, few were. C.P. Snow saw a part of this, when he wrote his The Two Cultures, where he saw a growing division between the scientific and engineering community, and that community which was still held together by a common literary, historical, and philosophical tradition. But in an age when the university money went to the scientists, and what was left over (other than that which went for sports, of course) was divided among the babel of ‘the subjects’, that tradition, and the erudition which went with them, soon disappeared.

In the mean time, among most American public and private schools, misguided and, quite frankly, bone headed theories of education led to the progressive abandonment of phonics, spelling, grammar, logic, rhetoric, or even the broad and deep reading that simply being left alone by the schools might have led to. This, combined with the progressively easier and easier entertainment of radio, television, computers, computer games, the internet, and social media, led to the progressive abandonment of any rigor in primary and secondary education.

The results of this whole scale abandonment of education in the humanities for the past fifty years have been that the ‘Two Cultures’ of the late C.P. Snow are now the Eloi and the Morlocks predicted in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. We now have the spectacle of liberal arts majors in the universities who could not name the seven Liberal Arts if a gun were put to their head, let alone give any indication that they had read much of anything. And, with the exception of some offspring of Jewish or Hindu or Asian families, who still have a tradition of education in the family, we have very few who know anything of mathematics or science, save perhaps to recount the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory.

In the meantime, the costs of college or university have so increased that it is impossible for a student to graduate, unless either his or her family is rich, or he or she is willing to sustain an enormous student debt, which can not be discharged in bankruptcy, or otherwise voided.

In short, I have seen the writing upon the wall, and it is the ledger sheet of a bankrupt institution.

More and more, what we shall see is that universities will abandon their ‘humanities’ departments, and more and more, they shall become trade schools and vocational schools which, at best, will teach the science and engineering which our corporate masters require for their employees, and at worst, will teach the law, economics, business, and finance which our corporate masters will require to maintain their exalted positions over the rest of us.


Food porn: Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

Well, it’s about time to start writing again in my wretched little weblog. My apologies to the now-three or four regular readers. I’m still not ready to talk about my late mother.

So, I will again change the subject.

Today is the feast of St. Patrick, a feast which apparently is recognized in both the Latin West and the Greek East. It would seem that everyone likes the Irish. Except, perhaps, other Irish.

I’m told that in Ireland, these days, it is a minor feast. And if its date does not fall on a Sunday, few, other than the devout, will go to Mass on that day, or otherwise celebrate the feast.

But, I am told, it is another thing altogether in the ‘States. Millions of Irish-Americans, and millions more of would-be Irish-Americans, celebrate St. Patrick’s feast in all sorts of ungodly customs, most of them invented in the Twentieth Century, and the rest in the Twenty First.

At least those founded in the Twentieth have the advantage of being tasty. Things like corned beef and cabbage (which I am given to understand that American Irish used to buy from Jewish delis), and Irish Coffee (which I first thought was Irish, later thought was a ‘San Francisco treat’, and which lately I have discovered got its start in Ireland around 1943, and then rolled downhill from there all the way to San Francisco).

Finally, I’m given to understand that Twenty-First Century traditions for St. Patrick’s Day include green beer and the Irish Car Bomb. But, the less said about either of those abominations, the better.

The two traditions that my family cultivated for the Feast of St. Patrick were corned beef and cabbage, and Irish coffee. As my mother in her last years developed an intolerance for nitrates and nitrates (among many other dietary restrictions), we got around those by corning our own beef. In fact, one of my fondest memories was just a couple of years ago, when I, my brother Bill, my nephew John, and my mother had a proper corned beef and cabbage dinner, with small Yukon potatoes, and garnished with a nice Dijon mustard. It was, perhaps, non-canonical. It remained, however, quite delicious.

But we’re talking about Irish Coffee, here, so the recipe for gourmet corned beef and cabbage will just have to wait for another year or so.

So, guyz, the classic Irish Coffee is, according to the IBA, confected of the following:

–2 parts Irish Whisky (2 centiliters, or cl)

–4 parts hot Coffee (4 cl)

–1/2 part Brown Sugar (1/2 cl, or 1 teaspoon)

–1 1/2 parts Cream (1 & 1/2 cl)

And the manner in which this estimable comestible is confected is this: mix whisky, coffee, and sugar in a cup. Float cream on top of mixture. Enjoy.

Of course, both the Devil, and one’s delight, are in the details. So, let’s just examine each of the details.

–Irish Whisky. It should go without saying that if one wants a proper Irish Coffee, then some variety of Irish is the whisky to get. Among the literary set, Jameson’s, the favorite tipple of James Joyce, is the canonical choice. Somehow, though, I doubt that dear old Jimmy would sully his with anything other than perhaps a splash of rain or creek water. If you are not a nationalist partisan of The War of Independence, or The (later) Troubles, then I suppose Bushmills would do, though you might just start a row in any genuinely Irish pub if you were so rash as to order one there. I’m told that Trader Joe’s has a good single malt Irish Whisky. Or, if you want to go all hipster, you could try one of these.

–Coffee. Hot, strong, and black is the operative ingredient here. For those with a working espresso machine, then a cafe americano would do. If you have a french press, then a good coarsely ground french roast coffee would also do. And, if you are the kind that likes to build things from the ground up, then I have written something here which might be of some use to you.

–Sugar. If you are an impurist, then I suppose that simple white granulated sugar would do. If you are a purist, then brown sugar would be the way to go. But if you are at all adventurous, then you might want to grate a teaspoon of piloncillo, or even pour a teaspoon of Jamaican molasses, as a variant. Tell me how it goes, if you do.

-Cream. Here’s where most of the arguments happen. Back in Ireland in the ’40s, they floated simple thick cream from Ireland (as opposed to Irish Cream, which is a whole ‘nother animal) on top of the coffee drink. And for some, unwhipped heavy cream is the only acceptable choice. If you take that route, then you will need the recommended sugar in the coffee part of the drink, as that will alter the specific gravity of the coffee to the point where it will be easier for the cream to remain floating on the surface of the coffee. Hey, it’s science, and the science is settled. You wouldn’t want to be a science denier, now, wouldja?

For many, though, they alter the specific gravity of the cream, by adding some sugar, or vanilla extract, and by using a whisk or an electric whipper, to add a bit of air to the cream, and thereby making it lighter. Some even more daring souls will run the cream through a whipping cream foamer. The lazy (which I was this morning) will use a can of whipped cream. Now, if you decide to make that choice, Alta Dena at least has a variety with real cream.

Just don’t tell me if you decide to use a spray can or tub of Kool-Whip or another such abomination. I really don’t want to know about that shizzit.

On the other hand, there are some who can not consume cream, whipped or otherwise, because of health or dietary reasons. And some of my friends are keeping what the Irish used to call a black fast: a diet without meat, fish, milk, or eggs. While I have had some hard things to say about most vegans, I can sympathize with those who have had to adopt a vegan diet, either through medical necessity, or because of obedience to their religion.

In which case, I would suggest substituting the cream with something which is at least organic, rather than a chemical feast (yecchh!) One might therefore consider something like this.

And, for those who, in celebrating St. Patrick’s day, actually remember the Reason for the Season, I would recommend this:




Stating the Obvious

My mother died last Sunday. On Christmas Eve. While I was at church.

I suppose I shall have to talk more of this. When I’m ready to do so. Not now.

I’d rather just change the subject, thank you.

And so, for the benefit of my three or four readers, I will instead expatiate on a subject near and dear to my heart: the Divine Liturgy.

I suppose I’ve been pondering on this for the last two score years, when, after being raised indifferently by my parents and my church in the faith, I became a nasty little atheist at the age of thirteen, and a not-so-virtuous pagan thereafter until I was twenty-four, when I accepted my Lord Christ in my heart, and sought for His Church in the world.

The day that I returned was what the West calls Maundy Thursday, and what the East calls Great and Holy Thursday. The couple that led me the rest of the way back to the faith invited me to their evening service, which commemorated the Last or Mystical Supper, when my Lord Christ founded the first service of the Divine Liturgy.

I suppose that that has affected me ever since. Both in my search for Christ’s Church, and in pondering over the true worship of that Church.

That search led me to return to the Roman Catholic church, which was the church of my youth. This was prompted because, after much study, I came to the conclusion that both that church and the Orthodox church comprised the center of the Church founded by my Lord Christ. And I decided that it was best to return to that part of Christ’s church in which I had been born and baptized.

Alas, between the time that I had renounced and apostatized from that church, some things had happened. The Second Vatican Council was one of them.

And, in point of fact, that Council was influential in occasioning my return to Roman Catholicism. In the course of my studies, I had read all the documents of that Council. And I was drawn to everything that was said in them. That the Church should engage with the world, in order to draw all toward Christ. That the Church should recognize that which is true in all religions, and to use that commonality in conversing with those religions. That there should be a reform in the education of the clergy, so that they might engage more effectively with the scientific, literary, and philosophical leadership of the world, and have better knowledge of those three fonts of the Holy Spirit: Scripture, Tradition, and Church Authority. And most important, that the Divine Liturgy should be reformed, so that it might more truly be ‘the summit of human existence’ and ‘a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven’.

So, I returned to the Roman Catholic Church. Stayed there for as long as I could, too.

But it seemed to me that few, if any, of its people or clergy had actually ‘gotten the memo’ that Vatican II offered. I felt the same way toward that Council that Mohandas Gandhi felt toward Western Civilization: both would be a good idea.

So, after seven years of experiencing the most painful and tedious liturgies to which humankind could be expected to endure (this was in the Archdiocese of LaLa Land, during the reign of His Eminence, Roger Cardinal Mahony), I happened to find a cassette tape of Russian Monastic Vespers, sung by the monks of Chevetogne. I was so taken by the beauty of that music that I taught myself German, just to read the liner notes, so that I could understand what was being prayed for and in that service.

And I found the most beautiful prayer and worship that I had ever experienced in my life.  I prayed to God for a solid month that I might be led to a church that prayed like that.

And I was led, a bit more than thirty years ago, to St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church, on the very week that my pastor and spiritual father, Fr. Alexei Smith, was ordained to serve the Divine Liturgy there.

I’ve been there ever since.  I’ve learned a few things since then.

One thing I’ve learned is that the culture wars mean very little in the long run. Yes, you can hold grievances about the stupid liturgy tricks that you have yourself experienced, or read about in The Wanderer or The Remnant, or that lot, or that you have heard about on ‘teh webz’ or have watched on YouTube.

But it does nothing to help to heal your soul of its ills. In fact, it does rather the opposite.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it does little good to continue religious feuds that have been going on for a long time. Like whether Latin is or is not a good thing to use in a mass. Or whether it is better to put thumb, forefinger, and middle finger together when making the Sign of the Cross. Or the direction in which you cross yourself. Or, finally, with whether you say or do not say that tricksy little ‘filioque’ in the Creed.

It matters a whole lot more whether you love God, and whether you love the lot who live right next to you, who are made in the image and likeness of that God. It matters if that love is expressed in loving God with your whole being, including your mind and your pocketbook, and whether that love is also expressed in helping and loving those around you. Even if they are not particularly lovable.

And, quite frankly, it also involves seeking God, by studying His two creations: the Universe, and His Scriptures. It involves trying to find His beauty and His wisdom, and expressing it in one’s lives, and in one’s worship.

If you try to do otherwise, you are likely to wind up with a golden calf, or with the sacrifice of Cain, who offered only what he wanted to offer, rather than what God had asked for. In both cases, the results would appear to be unsatisfactory.

For my part, I worship at a church where we believe that when the priest chants, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, and when we respond by saying, “Amen,” that Kingdom, for that short but vital time, is actually made manifest then and there.

And I have seen, heard, and felt myriad proofs of that Kingdom, in the thirty years I have worshiped at St. Andrews. Many others have told me the same thing.

It expresses itself to those others usually in this way: at the end of the Divine Liturgy, I and the three other members of our little choir descend the stair from the choir loft and receive our blessing from the priest or priests down there. Newcomers to our church will frequently exclaim: “But there are so few of you here! It sounded like there were many more of you upstairs!”

Those of us who have been there for much longer, particularly those who are or who have been in the choir, will just smile quietly and say, “Yes, you’re right. It does sound like there are more upstairs.”

But it is different upstairs. In part, it sounds like more are there because those of us in the choir get to hear all of the people downstairs singing along with us. You see, we have the rather odd idea at St. Andrews’ that the choir are the leaders of the people in prayer. Not their replacement. And the choir downstairs, for the most part, are really good at what they do.

In part, too, it is in the nature of what we are doing when our small choir sings. The four of us have each been singing for a long time, and have long been studying or living in the faith of our church. Our director is an alumnus of the New England Conservatory of Music, where his majors were piano and composition, and has had decades of experience in choral direction. Our only instrument is a tuning fork in middle C. And the nature of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is that it is a solid hour and a half to two hours of singing forty or more connected pieces of music, and not, as in the West, an Ordinary of five settings, (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) and Propers of five or six more.

I am told that those who have studied humans when they sing chorally have found that more of their brains are involved when they sing than at any other time. I have found that to be my experience as well. I have never felt so alive in my life, and seldom more fulfilled, than when I sing in the choir, attentive to the words and the music (which I have long since memorized), to my other choir members, to the director, to the voice of the priest (and occasionally, of the deacon, when one is present), and most importantly, to the meaning of the prayers which we sing.

But there is something more going on here. And I blush to mention it. But there are times, when I am most attentive to the words and music and meaning, when I begin to hear and to feel the presence of the others:  those members of the choir who have fallen asleep in the Lord, who are no longer present in body, but who nonetheless sing with us. Frank Ryan, my first choir director there. My first wife, Carolyn. Her brother, Charlie. John Roshay. Roger Lund. Michael Cervanek. My second wife, Beth. And the many angels who sing with them as well. I think it is these, more than anyone else, that people are hearing when they think the choir to be so large.

And, on Christmas Day, I felt behind me, several times, the presence of someone who loved me, and who was very proud of me. I hope it may have been my mother.

And that hope is the only thing right now that is keeping me from despair.

Musings on Thanksgiving

Well, here I am of a Thanksgiving weekend, ensconced once again in my little hermit’s duplex in Pedro town, slowly drinking a breakfast Cafe Napoleon, courtesy of the corner mini-mart that has provided the filtered water and the two little bottles of E & J brandy.  The rest of the ingredients are at hand at my little domicile. My efforts at following the St. Philips’ Fast (starting Nov. 15th) have been shot straight to Hell by the previous week’s festivities, so I think that I shall just wait until the Feast of St. Andrew (starting November 30th), which is also my church’s patronal feast day, to get down to the nitty-gritty of the Nativity Fast. So it goes.

Still and all, it was an altogether wonderful time, this past week or so. Allow me to share with my three or four readers all of the details. Read the rest of this entry »

Sooper Genius!

sooper genius

I have a terrible confession to make: I have a high intelligence quotient. Worse than that, it is not just Mensa level. It is, quite frankly, Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking level. My mother tells me that I started speaking when I was three months old. She also tells me that, after she had been reading to me for about a year, starting almost from birth, I started speaking the words of the book myself along with her. By the time I was two, I was quite happily reading by myself.

It gets worse. My parents told me, later, that when I was six, and they had gone to my parent-teacher conference, the teacher told them that I was at that time reading at an eighth grade level. She told them this because she wanted their help in getting me to stop reading. She felt that I was embarrassing the other kids. And she thought that eventually, I would get to be ‘normal’, anyway.

I don’t know about the other kids, but she was definitely wrong about my becoming ‘normal’. It seemed that I always remained about eight years ahead of the other kids, in terms of both knowledge and reading interests. But fortunately, my father and mother had a large library, and I could pursue my own education at home, after enduring school during the day. And fortunately also, by third grade I had discovered the California public library, which in the days of my youth was once pretty good.

But unfortunately, I was stuck in classes where just about everything they taught was inexpressibly boring, because I had already learned it years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

This and That

La metro

Well, I’ve woken up, managed to make a strawberry croissant and a killer cup of coffee (roasted a week ago, ground a few second before using, perfectly brewed, and with a 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, two tsp white sugar, and some Trader Joe’s thick cream). Delicious.

I’m playing hooky from my studies today, and will be leaving my house soon, because it’s now nearly 9 a.m., and it’s 76° F. already. By noon, it will have reached 91°. My little cottage by the beach has many good qualities among it. Air conditioning, alas, is not one of them.

So, when I’m done with this little screed, which should be by the next hour or so, I shall be taking the air conditioned bus down to the air conditioned light rail train, which will in turn take me to the air-conditioned Barnes & Noble, which I will be infesting until about 5 pm, by which time the temp will have declined to an acceptable 82°.

And, in the mean time, I will be writing about this and that: idle thoughts worth examining further. Read the rest of this entry »

More Notes from the First Circle of Hell

No automatic alt text available.

I’ve recently read something that has stirred up something vaguely resembling thought in me, and I’ve decided to put down those thoughts. Bad thoughts! Bad!

Seriously, though, the first of the writings in question is this one entitled Hikikomore and the Politics of Despair. The writer examines the lives of a growing sector of people in Japan who are described with the name in the above title. The name means ‘shut-in’, and refers to a large and growing group in Japan who have pretty much given up on Japanese society, and are living in their parents’ homes, or alone. They seldom go out of their rooms, and are pretty much bound to their computers, their televisions, or their video games.

The ultimate result of this way of life is called kodoyushi. It means lonely death, which is being experienced by more and more of the hikikomore, either as they age, or as they decide to give up. It is indeed a lonely death, because what often happens is that these people die alone, and their bodies are not found until days to weeks later.

The writer suggests that these hikikomore are the inevitable result of our modern society, that they are canaries in the coal mine: outliers who are showing the way that more and more people in the U.S. will be living in the not-too-distant future.

I hate to be the one to tell the writer, but it is unlikely to be as good in the U.S. as in Japan. It seems that in Japan, there is a much better social support network, in which people who can no longer cope are still taken care of. Not so in the U.S.

No, we have had our hikikomore for a long time now. We call them the homeless. Read the rest of this entry »

Cowboys Drank Better Coffee Than Most Hipsters Do Now

cowboy chuck wagon

Yeah. And I can prove it, too.

Ever since my favorite nephew gifted me with a copy of Modernist Cuisine, I’ve been making considerable use of it. This book, in case I haven’t told you, and I believe I actually have, is a graduate level course in food science, and discusses deeply, intelligently, and luminously, the physics, chemistry, and biology of food. While it gets a just a bit deeper in what some have called ‘molecular gastronomy’, and what I call ‘inorganic gastronomy’, than I at present particularly like, I don’t plan on kicking it out of my library any time soon. In fact, I can not recall when I ever in my life received a better gift. Thank you, John.

But I digress somewhat. Included in Volume 4 of its five volumes is a chapter devoted to the subject of coffee. The author’s opinion is that most restaurants and coffee shops have little idea as how to prepare coffee correctly, which is a pity, because the science is simple, and the steps necessary are few, in order to make really good coffee. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress Report, October 2017, Month 2

Well, it’s been a month since I restarted my program of Remedial Education. Since then, I’ve made the following progress: Read the rest of this entry »