Sunday, July 31, 2016

County Fair

We visited the county fair somehow accidentally on the day it was free, even the rides! (We did have to pay for parking--$3 dollars in someone's yard.) Although we only made it on the carousel before a thunderstorm, plus Chester only rides rides with me beside him, which rules out almost everything. We had to miss the ferris wheel because the storm was rapidly approaching and the man who managed it was on a power trip, wanting everyone to remain in the line although it was clear that the storm would close it.

The first building at the fair housed award-winning food: Layer cakes slouching on paper plates, cut in half to show off the layers, with a piece on a server. Sometimes there was plastic draped over the top. How are those cakes going to look after a week of heat? The cakes were interspersed with those cookies with hershey kisses in the middle and other randomness.

There were also prize-winning jams, vegetables, and wildflowers in little vases. Why is there a prize for that?

There were lots of different kinds of animals and exceptional cowboy-hat clad young children who manage the animals, expertly hopping over fences and pulling sheep and goats around by their mouths as the animals bleated mournfully. Chester clung to me in fear of the animals. It seems he might not be well-suited to grow up into one of those exceptional 4-H children.

There were cows and pigs and rabbits. The poultry building was transformed into a garage displaying old tractors. There were horses and miniature horses and cows. And there were more exotic animals like llamas and camels and a reindeer, baby zebra, and porcupine. And there was a small petting zoo where you could feed the animals carrots if you wanted, which Chester did not want. Plus, you had to pay $1 for the carrots. Chester is a child who saves us money.

There were rows of stands of fried food. It was deeply unfortunate that the stand that was smoking various meats was not yet open. We settled on a fried fish sandwich and french fries and a sweet waffle.

Oh, and I nearly forgot: There was some big construction and farm equipment on display that I never would have noticed, had it been for Chester's enthusiastic pointing; it pleased him probably most of all.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ The Secret Life of W.H. Auden.

~ I see more Charles Prendergast than Maurice, but I haven't seen the exhibit (although I would love to).

~ I saw references to this murdering spree in Japan, but didn't realize it was an attack specifically against disabled people.

~ On Hilary's speech:
Mothers and daughters and children in general: Clinton and the people who talked about her kept coming back to that, and while the intent was obvious — to communicate that she wasn’t all stiffness and steel — the tactic verged on overkill and was a discouraging confirmation of sexist double standards.
A man doesn’t have to prove first that he’s been a model father to be allowed to ascend to the pinnacle of his career. But apparently a woman has to show that she hasn’t shortchanged motherhood in order to get the green light.

~ On mistress-dispelling:

The companies say it typically takes about three months to dispel a mistress. Yu Feng, director of the Chongqing Jialijiawai Marriage and Family Service Center, said his team has dispelled 260 mistresses in the last two years. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016


"Envisaged from the point of view of 'agonistic pluralism', the aim of democratic politics is to construct the 'them' in such a way that it is no longer perceived as an enemy to be destroyed, but as an 'adversary', that is, somebody whose ideas we combat but whose right to defend those ideas we do not put into question. This is the real meaning of liberal-democratic tolerance, which does not entail condoning ideas that we oppose or being indifferent to standpoints that we disagree with, but treating those who defend them as legitimate opponents."

--Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox

Obama's DNC Speech

Wow: Obama's DNC speech--just what I was wishing someone, anyone would say. Actually, I have more nuanced notes than that, but there is really a lot that's good about it:

So tonight, I’m here to tell you that yes, we still have more work to do.  More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who hasn’t yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years.  We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer; our homeland more secure, and our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation.  We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed – that all of us are created equal and free in the eyes of God.
The preamble's more perfect union does not imply that it's ever going to be perfect, just that it will be an improvement. It's good to seek improvement, bad to seek perfection.

This is a more fundamental choice – about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.
Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s precisely this contest of ideas that pushes our country forward. 
But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.  What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.  
The self-government stuff pervades the speech and is great. Although I'm not really sure that presidential elections are about self-government at all. No one's saying I'll do less as president and let more up to the other branches and to state and local government.

He's respectful, though, about the debates between Republicans and Democrats, arguing that it's good (or at least not bad) to have a diversity of viewpoints. (I'm reading Chantal Mouffe's The Democratic Paradox at the moment and that's her point, too.)

Also, kudos for mentioning that Trump isn't conservative and for advocating conversation, rather than embattled withdrawing.
There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had. 
An acknowledgement of the Trump supporters' legitimate complaints. Although he could have taken them more seriously and suggested some solutions. He quickly moves on to the greatness of the American people.
More inspiring stuff on self-government:

We are not a fragile or frightful people.  Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order.  We don’t look to be ruled.  Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that together, We, the People, can form a more perfect union.
That’s who we are.  That’s our birthright – the capacity to shape our own destiny.  That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent.  It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for better wages.
America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us.  It’s always been about what can be achieved by us, together, through the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.
The sad part is that it's not clear that self-government is really happening much in the U.S. anymore. And he doesn't say what Hilary will do to encourage it. Self-government isn't something that will float all by itself into the future. That's Tocqueville's point. Self-government, incidentally, is more than: "When we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen." And self-government isn't just Congress making laws. 

We can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reasons our forebears came – to work, and study, and make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please.  

If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, but reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ On disability and prisons. (via Francisco)

~ Donald Trump in poetry. More Trump:

“Now it was the summer of Trump, it was the autumn of Trump, it was the Christmas of Trump,” he said. “It was everything.”

His speech after the convention was way more interesting, with way better delivery, than his convention speech.

~ Also convention-inspired: PAL on Peter Thiel.

~ Since First Things ran an interesting (currently paywalled) piece on Barbara Pym this weekend, she's on my mind. Here's an old piece they published on her. And "How pleasant to know Miss Pym," written to praise her in '71, when her new novels weren't being published, yet simultaneously incredibly condescending (a condescension which is unwarranted):

Occasionally there are lapses into the idiom of the Woman's Page (there are too many cosy 'It so happened that's), and references to foreign literature, philosophy and other esoteric matters are sometimes awkward. But though Miss Pym is soon out of her depth, she quickly returns to the shallow placid waters of which she is mistress. (sic)

That couldn't be less true.

~ Also at First Things, an LDS physician on NFP. Need any more acronyms?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Stearns is married off.

Everything went smoothly. Stearns, unexpectedly, was in control of everything on her wedding day, from the timing of speeches to whether the whoopie pies were being properly refreshed. I had to convince her to let Hopkins finish preparing the flowers (that Stearns beautifully arrange) while Stearns was in her wedding dress. I know she didn't want to let anyone else do anything (even Hopkins who is the height of ability when it comes to flowers and lots of other things). (In contrast, I did zero things on my wedding day, entrusting every single thing to everyone else.)

At the bonfire post-reception party, Stearns and Mr. Stearns donned matching aprons and dipped up ice cream cones for their guests. I can't imagine having the presence of mind to take someone else's food order on that, most exhausting of days. And then, ever so cutely, Stearns and Mr. Stearns took to the dance floor with their own ice cream cones and danced their first dance, Toto's Africa. And we're still eating the delicious left over ice cream.

#1tomatolover entertained us all with his enthusiastic and undying dancing for the rest of the evening.

Fr. PS's homily was excellent. A great reminder of the point of marriage (and what we lost out on when we moved away from DC). And his company was wonderful, as always.

My speech, for posterity:

Stearns has rejected dozens of suiters over the years without a second thought--no one can rise to her standards. We had lots of conversations about what was wrong with them, with me pleading on their behalf, but Stearns never wavered. It turns out she was holding out for Mr. Stearns, about whom, in a huge 180, she can't find any fault. So Mr. Stearns, you must be nearly perfect, or at least perfect for Stearns. I think, in her words, you are both weird in exactly the same ways.

Stearns, you are brilliant and beautiful, and I hope, Mr. Stearns, that you've learned that Stearns' love language is compliments and giving her your stuff.

Stearns and I have shared many things over the past several decades: Clothes, to her delight and my consternation; gelato at sunset in an empty square in front of a beautiful church in Rome (not small dishes of gelato, but a half gallon with two spoons); wine from a nalgene bottle on a hill overlooking Florence; demanovka in Slovakia. We've shared an apartment, many books, friends, a conversation. We even dated the same person once or twice, not at the same time, of course.

Now we get to share the cross, the trial that we're all celebrating today: Marriage.

Mr. Stearns, I wish you the best as you take over the role of sharing with Stearns. And the main thing to share is the gift of yourselves with each other as honestly and openly and lovingly as you can.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ More on Bill (this is about his funeral). I seriously love him:

On days when the vending machines would malfunction, he would call everyone over and hit the numbers to hand out free sodas.

~ The pillbox hat is sublime. I want one.

~ Ha! Saint Frances and Saint Clare Double Date with Evita and Thoreau. (via Hopkins)

~ I'm not generally one for NYTimes op-eds, but I thought The Myth of Cosmopolitanism was exceptional.

~ America's exceptionalism.

~ Low Milk Supply 101. Because I'm frustrated when my friends get pushed into panicking by uninformed pediatricians. (This particular friend does not read my blog, but still.) Medicine should be about educating women so that they can make informed decisions, not about scaring them.

~ E.B. White on the "Meaning of Democracy"

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Isaiah 66:10-14

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.

When you see this, your heart shall rejoice
and your bodies flourish like the grass;
the LORD's power shall be known to his servants.

(Shared for what I assume are obvious reasons.)

Friday, July 1, 2016


"The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human."

--Deus Caritas Est

"Even if the specific expressions of ecclesial charity can never be confused with the activity of the State, it still remains true that charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as “social charity”."

--Deus Caritas Est

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Random Assortment

~ Rest in peace, Bill.

~ Hotdogs in Zion.

~ The Trump phenomenon: Larger than we expect? Relatedly, I love this Trump 101 syllabus.

~ On family-friendly policies which may benefit men more than women. What to do about this? I'm all for maternal plus paternal leave to encourage father's to share the parenting more equally, and I really do believe it helps (as parenting is both nature and habit). But I'm also for recognizing that pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding do not impact both parents equally. It took me a full year to recover physically and psychologically. While Francisco and I both took a long time to adjust to having a child (and his adjustment period is as legitimate as mine), he didn't have the same physical and psychological response. And I didn't even have a c-section, which would have complicated all of this further.

~ For Ilana: Cities and fonts.

~ Fishing on the Susquehanna (via Hopkins)

by Billy Collins

Related Poem Content Details

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

More Movies

The Final Cut

A film entirely comprised of clips of other films, edited together to form a new one. A meditation on familiar love story tropes, yet with its own story emerging from the pieces. Clever, but Francisco and I agree: It could have been shorter.

The Young Philadelphians

Well, Main Line society is the same as it ever was.

Can't quite recommend it: Paul Newman is a god and the film has its moments, but overall it is pretty predictable and moralistic and drags.

District 9

This was interesting and a little weird--I mean, it's an alien movie, so obviously. It is a thoughtful critique of contemporary culture in general and of South African apartheid and post-apartheid race relations in particular. It considers the tendency to scapegoat and create an out-group and reveals our own tendency to see people in terms of stereotypes.

45 Years

Slow. I guess this was originally a short story and it shows. Maybe it could have been a bit better as a short film.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Zoo

Francisco's mother was visiting, so we all took Chester to the zoo. It was ok, but I won't be rushing out to do that again--too many people, too few naps, too much stimulation.

Plus, you get to see a couple of animals close up and a whole lot more far away and sleeping.

I think this was called a wrinkled hornbill. Great name, right?