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Thursday, March 05, 2015

What do Byzantium and the wine glass in your cupboard have in common?

Thanks to a recent archaeological discovery, soon you just might be able to drink the Byzantine Empire's favorite vintage, the "Wine of the Negev."

 For the first time, grape seeds from the Byzantine era have been found. These grapes were used to produce “the Wine of the Negev” — one of the finest and most renowned wines in the whole of the Byzantine Empire. The charred seeds, over 1,500 years-old, were found at the Halutza excavation site in the Negev during a joint dig by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The vines growing in the Negev today are European varieties, whereas the Negev vine was lost to the world. Our next job is to recreate the ancient wine, and perhaps in that way we will be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the Negev wine so fine,” said Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa, director of the excavation.

The archeologists know of “the Wine of the Negev” or “Gaza Wine” — named for the port it was sent from to all corners of the empire — from historical sources from the Byzantine period. This wine was considered to be of very high quality and was very expensive, but unfortunately, it did not survive to our day, so we do not know what it was that made it so fine. In earlier excavations in the Negev, archeologists found the terraces where the vines were cultivated, the wineries where wine was produced, and the jugs in which the wine was stored and exported, but the grape seeds themselves were not found.


I would love to be able to drink to that. L'chaim!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

And now that I've gotten that bit of surly out of my system...

A couple of book recommendations for Lent.

1. The first is a bit pricey, but well worth it: The Anglican Breviary.


Not sure why it's loading sideways, but--Blogger is free.

TAB is a reprint of an Anglican ultra-High Church endeavor in the 1950s--the translation of the Latin Catholic Breviary into English. And does it ever succeed.

Using the King James Version for the scriptural content, it is a straightforward translation of the pre-VatII Breviary, and it is glorious. For those familiar with the post-VatII Liturgy of the Hours, the older Breviary is a step up in the intensity level, with a diligent user going through the entire Psalter in one week instead of four. But, if you're like me and find the Psalms indispensible to your prayer life, this is not a problem. Yes, some high-Church Anglicanism gets into the mix as optional memorials (e.g., Charles I of England on January 30), but since I've always had more than a bit of sympathy for Anglo-Catholicism in general and poor Charles in particular, that's not much of a problem for me. Mileage varies, admittedly.

Nevertheless, every feast and observance under the old Calendar through the mid-1950s is in there, and it is glorious.

Take, buy and read.

2. Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass.

Another great find, but considerably less expensive, T&T delivers on its title. It truly is the finest introduction to the Extraordinary Form out there. Offered by Saint Augustine Academy Press, this attractively-hardbound book offers 114 glossy pages explaining everything about the Mass, including a word for word translation (helpful for your beginning Latin students), explanation of vestments and the old calendar cycle--the works. It's remarkable how much is packed into those pages, and with high production values to boot.

Better yet, it's on sale through the end of March. It was worth it before, but at 25% off it's a steal. For less than $20, there's no reason not to have it.

My one quibble is minor: 1. I have the first printing, which had two minor errors. While the errata sheet was welcome, it would have been nicer to have it as a cardstock or at least a glossy paper comparable to the printed text, instead of the photocopied sheet of paper. As I said, though--that's minor, and won't affect those buying now. Go and get it.

Seamless Garment Catholicism and the GOP--brothers from another mother?

Donald McClarey is (rightly) dispirited by the latest Back-to-the-Future Bernardin sent to water down the American episcopal bench. I believe it was the esteemed John Allen who said that the Pope was simply trying to bring "balance" to the world of Catholic bishops. Which, admittedly, would be a compelling argument if, say, there were any conservative appointments to the progressive episcopates in Belgium, Holland or Hunland. Don't hold your breath waiting for that, though.

However, that's not my main point.

My main point is to note the remarkable similarity between the mindset--and, yes, even language--between the GOP leadership and seamless garment Catholics.


Hearts and minds have to change, you guys! Lather, rinse, repeat.

As I said in Don's thread:

Oh, come on now, Don–the Pope says plenty of fine sounding words on life. It’s just that when the rubber hits the road, he tosses you a bunch of Bernardins who undercut your efforts. In other words, if you want lip service, he’ll give it to you. But if you want action…well, that would send the wrong message to the wider world. Have to meet people where they are, and all that. In fact, he’s a lot like the GOP in that respect.

Harsh? Probably. But in all honesty, what's the difference? If you can support post-birth abortion and still receive the body and blood of Christ with the full approval of your local shepherd on Sunday, then the GOP's hypocrisy on the issue, while sick-making, is placed in a little context.

Of course, that sends a huge signal that Catholic social teaching is equally disposable, but apparently, that's OK too.

21st Century Catholicism: She's Like Sybil, Only Less Coherent.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Here's a short explanation:

RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. Such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of six months and three years, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child's communicative efforts.


It afflicts a couple families we know who have adopted children--including this one

We know them quite well--Mom and Dad are Tommy's godparents.

If you can help in any way, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Mark for spotlighting this.

 

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Sir Martin Gilbert, rest in peace.

Sir Martin Gilbert, the great historian and biographer of Winston Churchill, died today at the age of 78.

He will be greatly missed. His works are well worth reading, and several are mandatory for the shelves of anyone who aspires to a love of history.

May God rest his soul.


And now for something completely different...

...a new phrase for your water cooler conversations: "Amoral familism." To quote from the link, it is

Social action persistently oriented to the economic interests of the nuclear family. In a controversial account of poverty in a village in southern Italy (The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, 1958), Edward C. Banfield argued that the backwardness of the community was to be explained ‘largely but not entirely’ by ‘the inability of the villagers to act together for their common good or, indeed, for any end transcending the immediate, material interest of the nuclear family’.

A similar ethos obtains elsewhere, as in the grim Arab proverb: "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, and me and my cousin against the stranger."

And it also applies increasingly to American culture, as we see in this jackass spectacle of a wealthy cardiologist expressing no empathy whatsoever for people outside of his immediate family. It started with a plea from a pediatrician and parent of a leukemia victim:

Dr. Tim Jacks, an Arizona pediatrician, wrote a blog post chastising  parents whose are not vaccinating their children after his two children were exposed to measles by a woman who reportedly picked up the disease while visiting Disneyland. Adding to Jacks’ concern is his 3-year-old daughter, Maggie, who suffers from leukemia and whose immune system is compromised due to chemotherapy, making her vulnerable to the disease which can lead to death.

Jacks wrote, “I assume you love your child just like I love mine. I assume that you are trying to make good choices regarding their care. Please realize that your child does not live in a bubble. When your child gets sick, other children are exposed. My children. Why would you knowingly expose anyone to your sick unvaccinated child after recently visiting Disneyland? That was a bone-headed move.’

He went on to say the family had to cancel a trip in order to monitor the children for measles as well as protect against any other infections, writing, “Thanks for making us cancel our trip to the snow this year. Maggie really wanted to see snow, but we will not risk exposing anyone else. On that note, thanks for exposing 195 children to an illness considered ‘eliminated’ from the U.S. Your poor choices don’t just affect your child. They affect my family and many more like us.”

Now, perhaps Dr. Jacks could have phrased it more gently and irenically--in fact, he probably should have. But at least he tried to credit love and a little good faith to the other side.

Enter the heart (the much-abused irony meter explodes again...) doctor:

Responding to Jacks’ post, Arizona cardiologist Wolfson said the familiy’s health issues are theirs, and he shouldn’t have to keep his unvaccinated children away from other kids.
Wolfson, who refuses to vaccinate his two young sons, said, “It’s not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place.”

“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” he added. “It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child.”

Asked if he could live with the idea that his unvaccinated child could cause another child to become gravely ill, the cardiologist was dismissive.

“I could live with myself easily. It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child,” he said,before adding, “If a child is so vulnerable like that, they shouldn’t be going out into society.”

Translation--screw you and your kids. Only mine count.

And lest you think Dr. Lucius "Purity!" Malfoy was misquoted or something, here he is revelling in the attention and offering conspiracy theories worthy of a man who debates lampposts.

I would like to report that Dr. Malfoy is an outlier, but he's not. Thankfully few anti-vaxxers are this brazen, but too many of them are incapable of expressing even the slightest empathy for the elderly, the infant, the weak and the medically-compromised. They can't even fake it. I spoke with a couple yesterday before leaving the conversation in disgust. They differed only in degree from the heart doctor. Not in kind.

I'm not in favor of mandatory vaccinations. We ourselves vaccinate, but I think there should be the option to refuse vaccines in certain situations. However, I have no problem with affixing financial, insurance and legal liabilities to those who refuse. It's all part of the calculation of risk.

And, yes, of course your kids are your first responsibility. Nobody's arguing that. But you don't live in a vacuum, and probably not even in an isolated area. We are social beings, and we owe certain responsibilities to each other in order to make civilization work. At a minimum, it requires an effort to understand each other and to not contemptuously dismiss real and valid medical concerns.


The bottom line is that if a mandatory vaccination program is ever imposed, it will owe a lot to the callousness of anti-vaxxers, and their inability to express even a modicum of sympathy for the weak.

[Update: And, just to be abundantly clear, I will not be hosting a vaccination debate here. If you'd like to post something along those lines, there are plenty of such places on the internet where you can do so.]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Along the way.

"The groundwork is being laid. I'll be even stronger than Msgr. Pope: any attempt to separate Christ from His words by invoking some modern notion of how merciful He should be preaches another Christ. Back when the Church listened to St. Paul, that was a serious problem. 

One of the things I always liked about Catholicism was that it had a full life of the mind. Now I'm not so sure: hardly a day goes by without the Pope, his inner circle, defenders of his initiatives or his vociferous fans insulting my intelligence. The past two years have been a cult of personality and papal positivism run amuck.  But I'm the problem because I'm believing my lying eyes.

I'm so tired of it. Spiritually,  emotionally,  and even physically. So very tired."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015