Thursday, August 31, 2006


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blind Art Guards

Originally uploaded by ThunderWeasel.
Warning: This is one of those "kids say the darndest things" posts which parents find irresistibly endearing, while others simply find them (at best) mawkish. If you have a tendency to be annoyed by such charming anecdotes, don't read the rest of this post. (And don't click on this link!)

You have been warned.

My oldest son, David, is not, shall we say, enamored of dogs. He has always liked them from a distance---preferably a long distance. When dogs come near, he goes far. He finds them intimidating. Things are getting better these days, but large dogs still leave him pretty nervous.

He has been quite impressed, however, with the idea of seeing-eye dogs. He really likes the fact that they can help blind people with various tasks in life. Encountering such dogs, in fact, has helped him to get over some of his fear of dogs in general.

He was also recently impressed with the guards at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. We were there, looking at paintings, and in just about every room there is a guard who kept a polite but very watchful eye on the many jewels of human creativity on display. Whenever someone (usually a child) started to get too close to a picture, the guard would quickly move into position and ask the patron to step away.

A child's mind is always processing the world, and David's found what I think to be a unique insight derived from these two recent impressions. After our museum visit he told me something to the effect, "Blind people would make good guards at the art museum because they have dogs that could chase people away from the pictures."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Strange Logic in the Lebanon War - article by Daniel Pipes

In this article Daniel Pipes picks up on an interesting historic reversal in the way warring parties wish to be perceived both by their own citizens and by their enemies.

Referring to how both Israel and Hezbollah try to highlight the damage each has received:
But this phenomenon of each side parading its pain and loss inverts the historic order, whereby each side wants to intimidate the enemy by appearing ferocious, relentless, and victorious. In World War II, for instance, the U.S. Office of War Information prohibited the publication of films or photographs showing dead American soldiers for the first two years of fighting, and then only slightly relented. Meanwhile, its Bureau of Motion Pictures produced movies like "Our Enemy Â? The Japanese," showing dead bodies of Japanese and scenes of Japanese deprivation.

Proclaiming one's prowess and denigrating the enemy's has been the norm through millennia of Egyptian wall paintings, Greek vases, Arabic poetry, Chinese drawings, English ballads, and Russian theater. Why have combatants (and their allies in the press) now reversed this age-old and universal pattern, downplaying their own prowess and promoting the enemy's?

Because of the unprecedented power enjoyed by America and its allies. ...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Book Log: Deep Conversion Deep Prayer, by Thomas Dubay, S.M.

Book Log: As I Lay Dying, by Richard John Neuhaus

Book Log: Five Loaves & Two Fish, by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

The memoir of a bishop who was imprisoned for years in North Vietnam. An amazing, amazing book.

This bishop reveals in very simple language a stunningly powerful faith that survived amidst "reeducation" in the camps. The simplicity of it is remarkable given the sophistication of the mind that produced it.

He had been seeking a way to share Jesus with his guards, when he was approached with a request to help the guards understand ecclesial documents better. (The government was afraid of the Church and wanted to be able to monitor its teaching.) This is what followed:

[Speaking to a guard.] "...I propose writing a dictionary of religious terms, from A to Z. When you have a moment, I will explain it to you. I hope that in this way you can better understand the structure, the activities, the history and the developing of the Church..."

The police gave me paper on which I wrote out my dictionary of 1,500 terms in French, English, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Chinese, with the definitions in Vietnamese. Thus, with these definitions, my responses to their questions about the Church, as well as my acceptance of their criticism, this document gradually became a "practical catechism."
Yet, for all of his tremendous learning, the message of this book is one of simple surrender, filling each moment with the love of Jesus.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I can't help it if my faith leads to rational thought

Commenting on the debate around President Bush's first veto, Joseph Bottum writes:
FIRST THINGS: On the Square: "This claim that because religious believers hold a position, there are only irrational reasons to hold it?is just too useful to certain segments of the commentariat, for it invalidates in one fell swoop whole classes of public argument. ... I wonder if the people who push this line have ever actually considered how dangerous it would be to win it? Do they really want to convince the large majority of Americans who are religious believers that their faith is incompatible with democratic politics? Do they think that people will, as a result, give up on their faith, or give up on their democracy?"
Do read the whole article. It is quite worthwhile.