Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sketch - Sleeping Cat


Max Monday



"His social responses frequently caused dismay. On one occasion, at a large dinner party, jokes were being told in English. Everyone laughed, then waited while Quappi translated for Max. His response, "Oh ja.""
--Mary Rapp, artist and student of Beckmann

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weak Spot

"It was like hitting a bag of thawed hamburger. It was just this tremendous resounding splat." --Wes Werbowy on what it was like punching a polar bear's nose.

If anyone feels so inspired by the above story, leave your poem in the combox. If not, that's perfectly fine.

H/T: Spirit Daily

Locus Focus - Grendel's Mere



As a continuation of last week's Subterranean-Themed Challenge, for this week's Locus Focus (as hosted at Shredded Cheddar) I am covering Grendel's mere in Beowulf.

"Everybody gazed as the hot gore
kept wallowing up and an urgent war-horn
repeated its notes: the whole party
sat down to watch. The water was infested
with all kinds of reptiles. There were writhing sea-dragons
and monsters slouching on slopes by the cliff,
serpents and wild things such as those that often
surface at dawn to roam the sail-road
and doom the voyage. Down they plunged,
lashing in anger at the loud call
of the battle-bugle. An arrow from the bow
of the Geat chief got one of them
as he surged to the surface: the seasoned shaft
stuck deep in his flank and his freedom in the water
got less and less. It was his last swim."

So Beowulf and a troop of Geat and Heorot men come to Grendel's mere, following the tracks through the forest made by Grendel's mother, after she avenged her son's death by snatching up Hrothgar's counsellor, Aeschere, back in Heorot. When they come to the haunted mere, they find Aeschere's head at the foot of the cliff. His blood and entrails are boiling up from beneath the mere's surface.

Beowulf must meet with Grendel's mother under the water of the mere; and infested as the water is with monsters, dragons and serpents, he remains resolute in the promise he made to Hrothgar in Heorot:


"'So arise, my lord, and let us immediately
set forth on the trail of this troll-dam.
I guarantee you: she will not get away,
not to dens under ground nor upland groves
nor the ocean floor. She'll have nowhere to flee to.
Endure your troubles to-day. Bear up
and be the man I expect you to be.'"

The visitation to the mere, and hence its actual enfleshment, is preceded by its vivid description in the form of country tale and hearsay retold by Hrothgar the morning after the attack, before the men set out to the mere. This layering is typical of the poem. The setting is pre-given, in the form of tales, and then the characters come to occupy the actual setting.

In Heorot, Hrothgar speaks to Beowulf thus about Grendel and his mother and their mere:


"'I have heard it said by my people in hall,
counsellors who live in the upland country,
that they have seen two such creatures
prowling the moors, huge marauders
from some other world. One of these things,
as far as anyone ever can discern,
looks like a woman; the other, warped
in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale
bigger than any man, an unnatural birth
called Grendel by country people
in former days. They are fatherless creatures,
and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past
of demons and ghosts. They dwell apart
among wolves on hills, on windswept crags
and treacherous keshes, where cold streams
pour down the mountain and disappear
under mist and moorland.
A few miles from here
a frost-stiffened wood waits and keeps watch
above a mere; the overhanging bank
is a maze of tree-roots mirrored in its surface.
At night there, something uncanny happens:
the water burns. And the mere bottom
has never been sounded by the sons of men.
On its bank, the heather-stepper halts:
the hart in flight from pursuing hounds
will turn to face them with firm-set horns
and die in the wood rather than dive
beneath its surface. That is no good place.
When wind blows up and stormy weather
makes clouds scud and the skies weep,
out of its depths a dirty surge
is pitched towards the heavens. Now help depends
again on you and on you alone.'"

When Beowulf arrives at the mere he dons mail and helmet and a sword that Unferth gives to him; he makes a short speech and impatiently goes in:

"...the prince of the Weather-Geats
was impatient to be away and plunged suddenly:
without more ado, he dived into the heaving
depths of the lake. It was the best part of a day
before he could see the solid bottom.
Quickly the one who haunted those waters,
who had scavenged and gone her gluttonous rounds
for a hundred seasons, sensed a human
observing her outlandish lair from above."

Grendel's mother clutches Beowulf and takes him to the bottom and,

"carried the ring-mailed prince to her court
so that for all his courage he could never use
the weapons he carried; and a bewildering horde
came at him from the depths, droves of sea-beasts
who attacked with tusks and tore at his chain-mail
in a ghastly onslaught. The gallant man
could see he had entered some hellish turn-hole
and yet the water did not work against him
because the hall-roofing held off
the force of the current; then he saw firelight,
a gleam and flare-up, a glimmer of brightness.

The hero observed that swamp-thing from hell,
the tarn-hag in all her terrible strength..."

And so deep, deep under the "wide earth", in an underwater cavern that is free from water inside of it, Beowulf does combat with Grendel's mother, while the other men wait above, watching the boiling surface, losing hope.

---

Note: The translation used here is by Seamus Heaney.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Garden Sprawl Friday

There is one more row of potatoes to dig up.




There are two kinds of cucumbers blooming. One is a variety good for pickles; the other variety is lemon cucumber. I planted the seeds in between the lettuces that were growing there. The cucumbers were sprouting between the lettuces, and when they started vining, it coincided with the point at which the lettuces were done.


Mmmm...cullerfull:




But tastes like raw earth - like ten times the earthiness of beet leaves. Of course, it is a law practically, that one of the healthiest vegetables must taste that way.

Here's some more colour:


The mess of tomato and pepper plants are fruiting prolifically; and some tomatoes are starting to ripen red. Put another way, the tomatoes are sizing up, and starting to ripen. The peppers are mostly setting their fruits right now, with the exception of some that are quarter to mid-size.

I picked a small ripening tomato and a green one came off with it. The two small peppers are ones that set early in spring when it was cold, then with the warmth, instead of growing bigger they just decided to ripen. So, I cut them off (never "pick" peppers by the way; that rhyme, whatever it is about pick a pepper, gives very bad advice) so they wouldn't be taking away from the other peppers developing on the plants. There was a third pepper (a Hungarian hot wax), as there was a third tomato, but I ate them before I took the picture. I don't know what the onion is doing there.

Three of the biggest overwintered cabbages, cleaned up:



They are big. They are heavy. One can tell by the firmness, size and weight, not having cut into it, that the leaves inside are many and nicely compacted, without hollow spaces. They were quite young going into winter, with no heads yet formed. The variety is January King. A stand-by if there ever was one.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SS. Peter and Paul Dappled Things

Major Toms

"Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space." --Stephen Hawking

"We must move into the universe. Mankind must save itself. We must escape the danger of war and politics. We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves." --Ray Bradbury


So speak two men - one of whom the world has placed among the ranks of its "greatest thinkers", the other a "Sci-fi legend" - who both, as far as the ideas expressed in the above quotes go, toss emergent jerry cans of new age gasoline onto the world's bonfire of metaphysical despair. (My apologies for the mixed metaphors.)

The pairing of extreme utopian illusion with extreme catastrophic despair makes a combination that is, one might be surprised to learn, very enticing to many people. The very ludicrousness of their propositions tingles the nerves of those whose boredom with life, due to sin, is literal dull hell.

It is also, as with all new age bunkum, a plagiarism of the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church. We have our Euchatastrophe: namely, among other points, that, when you see these things begin to happen, stand erect and hold your heads high, for your deliverance is near at hand. This being based on and being a continuation of, that first ultimate Euchatastrophe, the Resurrection.

In light of their words (or lack of light of their words), one must necessarily question what is the end, then, of all culture? What is the true outcome of their statements, but barbarism; a final satanic spurring of the earth? Take the artist who transferred his heart, entire, to a work of art, made with the materials of the earth -- was the end purpose of his work to provide fodder for our self-proclaimed ascendency, regarding the earth as defunct, as something to be hurdled over and left behind?

What the ideas expressed by Hawking and Bradbury hinge on, is a redefinition of Man through a redefinition of the Cosmos. The first touching point of this occurs in the Culture. Their ideas depend on a faulty definition of man. Or perhaps the actual purpose of their ideas is the forwarding of a faulty definition of man.

Man is not a survivalist. Survivalist Man is not only the most famished definition of man; it is man defined in the very process of committing suicide. He perishes precisely when he defines himself in terms of survival; the height of irony, of course, but it makes perfect sense: in his bid to "survive", man pares himself down to those terms of survival, and in the process has pared himself away. So he dies, along with all his demographics, like the pathetic sociologist he is.

Man creates; thus what man is does not remain solely within man, but also in the culture he has created and which has its being and continuation on earth. Man is fundamentally relational; he cannot be defined like a piece of luggage. This relational aspect of man is proven at its most essential, its most imperative to who we are, in that man can only be finally and fully defined in the heart of his Creator: one of the outcomes and unfolding of our true salvation as completed, without our merit, by Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

Taking first the proposition that man could actually travel through space without vast and precarious amounts of expensive technology and for extensive amounts of time without his bones becoming brittle as dried-up paper, what kind of man would man be without earth?

If there is one thing in which we today are so impoverished, it is in this: we do not know how our very physical being on this earth is a sacrament. You really have no idea of the magnificence of ritual that goes into a single breath you take.

Our relationship with earth is more than circumstantial. Our relationship with earth is indeed more than merely "purposeful". The being we have within earth is so deeply and profoundly set, so ingrained from out of infinity, that just to say we are placed here as stewards is, at best, insufficient lip service.

For the sake of argument, it would be safer to say that earth is a deiti to be worshipped than it would be to say that earth is the mere material object of our stewardship.

The implication of this is that to everything, everything, there is an a priori submission. Our notion of stewardship is itself stewarded in the culture we create; the "gift of sex", for instance, is not "a gift to be properly used", as though everything in and about our existence were just facts to be stored away in the information banks of our brains, and then to be used according to our knowledge. Everything requires an a priori submission that takes place in the midst of the sacrament of life on earth.

"If God can produce all natural effects through himself, it is yet not superfluous for him to produce them through certain causes, inasmuch as this is not owing to the insufficiency of his power but to the immensity of his goodness, which made him will to communicate his likeness to things not only in respect to their being but also in respect to their being causes of other things; for in these two ways all creatures have in common the divine likeness given to them...Likewise in this way the beauty of order appears in creatures." --St. Thomas Aquinas

"We must respect the interior laws of creation, of this Earth, to learn these laws and obey them if we want to survive.

This obedience to the voice of the Earth is more important for our future happiness...than the desires of the moment. Our Earth is talking to us and we must listen to it and decipher its message if we want to survive."
--Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, August 9, 2010

Max Monday



Double-Portrait Carnival, By Max Beckmann

"In 1925, the year he married Quappi, Beckmann painted a double portrait that expresses his alienation and his courage. Double-Portrait Carnival, 1925, ostensibly shows the pair entering a ballroom or coming onto a stage. The golden curtains have dropped shut; the figures stand exposed. The actual costumes are light-hearted: Quappi expensively disguised as a rider with a horse, Beckmann more modestly bedecked as a clown or acrobat. He holds his quasi-trademark cigarette, his stand-in miniature for the magician's wand. But the lovers do not communicate. Quappi looks earnestly to the right, as if awaiting, with anxiety, a signal, while her husband presents himself to us with the sad defencelessness of an actor without words to say. His pose has often been compared to that of Watteau's Gilles, and the resemblance is very striking. Like Gilles, Beckmann accepts stoically the strain of being looked at, of letting others see him, without the protection of either a theatrical robe or the garments of everyday. The crucial difference, of course, is that Watteau is not Gilles; he is a painter standing outside and seeing Gilles. Beckmann chose to paint his own exposure and his ludicrous attire, to put himself on display as well as his beloved. We can only feel that he was convinced of the truthfulness of this approach. Everyday clothing was, to Beckmann, more of a genuine mask than masquerade clothing. Life was a comedy. To acknowledge this and play one's part with dignity was to know one's self with greater certainty.

Beckmann's greatest self-portrait takes this discovery and inverts it. Self-Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927, works on the premise that the tuxedo, the aristocratic dress suit in which Beckmann always felt completely at home, was in itself a masquerade, a pretence of dignity and decorum to which no man was truly entitled. If the gods laugh at the clown, they explode with mirth over a man in his stately black-and-white."


Double-Portrait, Max Beckmann and Quappi, By Max Beckmann

"The 1941 Double-Portrait, Max Beckmann and Quappi spells out the terms of his second marriage with a frankness found nowhere else. (Despite his reiterated self-portraits, Beckmann was a deeply private man.) This is a self-portrait with his wife; she tucks herself neatly into his side. It is he who addresses us, she who looks modestly away. Yet, in this mundane world, where we might not fit in if we do not know and keep the rules, it is Quappi who seems more at ease. Beckmann looks choked by his muffler, encumbered with his walking stick, ill at ease with his elegant hat. There is something of a stranded whale about him, an exile in Holland and for once without much money. His wife's hand rests lightly on his shoulder as if to steer him, her fashionable little shoes trip forward with some certainty, while her husband hesitates, seems to feel for a footing on this alien carpet. None of this is admitted; naturally he glooms out at us, disgruntled but in command. We feel, all the same, that the worldly motor power in this partnership is the woman's. The great advance on the 1925 double-portrait is that there is no longer any need for carnival disguise. The figures are still just as seperate, as distant from each other as they were then, but an acknowledgement of their mutual dependence has grown and helped them. If Beckmann affronts the fates and dares them to do their worst, Quappi is at his side to share his future, united if apart." --Sr. Wendy Beckett, Max Beckmann and The Self

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Rainy Afternoon and Middle-of-the-Road Muzica

Locus Focus - San Callistus



This Saturday's Locus Focus is themed: Subterranean Settings. You can link-up with Locus Focus every weekend and write about settings in books, and read about those that others have written about.

"The cardinal went through a doorway at the end of the room, unlocked another door, went through, and disappeared down a long flight of stone steps. The stairway was obviously very ancient, cut through strata of alluvial soil, then a tufa mixture of gravel and earth, and finally at the lowest level, stone. The staircase ended abruptly about fifteen meters beneath the surface, opening onto a narrow, irregularly hewn gallery that drew away from them into indeterminate darkness.

"This is my only luxury", said the cardinal, shaking the key in his hand. "Come, I want to introduce you to my friends."

He led Elijah farther down the concourse and turned right into one of countless underground avenues that branched off the main galleria.

"You know where we are of course?"

"The catacombs."

"Yes. There are miles and miles of them down here. We are in San Callistus, in a little-known side passage. See, from here on no one ever goes. Only the crazy cardinal."

He stopped at a wooden door of great age, unlocked it, and entered. Elijah followed..."

In Michael D. O'Brien's novel, Father Elijah - the title character whose mission is to "infiltrate" the circles of the Antichrist and call him to repentance and salvation - meets at times with the Cardinal Secretary of State in the catacombs to discuss strategies and inform each other of important occurrences, both secret and public; discussing the enemy's plans. They do this underground due to secret surveillance, electronic bugs.

""I like to come here sometimes. I sit among the graves of my brothers and sisters. It gives one perspective, no? When Rome seems especially full of corruption, and the Vatican is a hive of busy bees chewing up paper into honey, ah, then I come down here and pray to the Lord. I say, keep me simple, my Lord. Don't let me become a prince. Don't let me become puffed up with my self-importance. Let me become like these little ones, your true servants."

Elijah glanced around at the shelves set into the walls.

"Look here, Father. Read this; what does it say?"

"Praetextatus, clarissimus."

"Clarissimus. It means he was a senator. We're not far from the grave of Saint Cecilia, the great early martyr of noble birth. This man was possibly a member of her family. Now, look across here. What does this one say?"

"Osimus, servus."

"A slave. You see, these two men were brothers in Christ. They rest side by side, awaiting the Last Day."

"A peaceful place to wait..."

"Yes. It's full of saints, most of them unknown to history. Here are the real foundations of the Church. Many of these died horrible deaths. Torn to pieces in the arena, burnt alive, beheaded. A few even died by crucifixion. Look at this one. She's my favorite. A girl. One of the thousands of unknown martyrs. I think of her as my saint, the little daughter I never had. Do you ask yourself if I am slightly mad?"

"No, Eminence."

"A Christian lives both within time and beyond it. I'm closer to this one than to most of those walking and talking up there on the surface. Yes, she and I know each other well."

"What is her name?"

"Severa."

"Do you know anything about her?"

"Only that she died during a persecution of the third century. She was a martyr. Thirteen years old. She chose to be thrown to the lions rather than submit to sexual seduction. The family selected the words of her eulogy with tact--a martyr for holy virginity, victorious over the lion, it says. Beneath that inscription, there is another. Can you read it, Father?"

"A dove without bitterness. Rest, Severa, and rejoice in the Holy Spirit."

"A little saint."

"Yes. Seventeen hundred years old. Our daughter she is - and our mother.""

Though freed down here from the webs being woven above, at one point when the Cardinal and Elijah meet again in the catacombs, they are assaulted suddenly, by one of those principalities working through men of sin above.

"Both men fell silent. Both men closed their eyes and went deeply into silent prayer.

They remained motionless for a time, until an extraordinary thing happend. In that airless place, the door to the outer gallery slammed violently shut, and the lantern was snuffed out by an unseen force. Both men jumped to their feet. A hideous stench filled the chamber.

"Father, strike a light", the cardinal gasped. "The matches are by the lantern. Quickly!"

Elijah, disoriented and frightened, staggered around in the dark searching for the lantern. The cardinal's voice cried out with a surge of strength: "Vade retro, Satana! Ipse venena bibas!"

Terror filled the chamber. Malice beat against the two priests, hammering against their souls for admission, for possession. A shock ran through Elijah's body, nausea gripped his stomach, his mind reeled with dizziness. He swayed and fell to his knees; he fumbled for the matches. His fingers performed their task only in obedience to a superhuman effort of the will. The cardinal continued to pray loudly in an authoritative voice.

"Vade retro, Draco! Crux sacra sit mihi lux!"

The stench left as quickly as it had come. Elijah lit the lantern, stumbled to the door, and threw it open. All was as before, ominously silent, horribly normal. Not a breath of wind stirred the air of the gallery.

The two men sat down, breathing heavily.

"Well," said the cardinal, "the old dragon still has a few tricks up his sleeve."

These catacombs are, as with most of the settings in this novel, part of a great trajectory of settings along the way - the way to the accomplishment of a dangerous and frightening task, which, as with all tasks but in a special way, is historically momentous; a decisive moment in salvation.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Devotions Meme

So, I was contemplating during the past few days, without too much intent, a post I would write about devotions, seeing as I had started a devotion again which I did not do last year, and which has been - now that I'm doing it again - like something wonderfully familiar yet new.

Then Terry memes me (yes, I'll verb the word if I want to). In the meme you have to list your five favourite devotions. Well, thank you Terry, for tagging me and for the confirmation.

Here they are:

1. Adoration

2. The Holy Face of Jesus. I've been slack in this one of late. Though I go to Adoration every Tuesday (if because I go practically every day) I do not always remember the intention when I do go. You see, how could I forget that? It happens when you don't consciously keep it in mind. One who practices this devotion is recommended to go every Tuesday before the Blessed Sacrament to make reparation for the insults and injuries which Christ's Holy Countenance has received, and which He receives in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. If one cannot make it to a chapel at the time, one can console the Face of Christ within one's heart - of course, having an image of His Holy Face helps in that regard: "I firmly wish that My Face reflecting the intimate pains of my Soul, the suffering and love of my Heart, be more honoured! Whoever gazes upon My Face already consoles me."

3. Total Consecration to Mary according to Saint Louis Marie de Montfort. This is the devotion which I failed to renew last year, by which I mean that I re-consecrated myself to Mary, but I failed to do the 33 days of preparation again leading up the anniversary of the consecration date, which for me was in 2007. So, consecration to Mary, while being sufficient the first time, is something one is to keep renewing. Anyone who wishes to do this Total Consecration, simply go to this link. All you do is email the apostolate your mailing address, signifying your intention, and they send you, totally free of charge, the preparation booklet, instructions and calendar.

4. The Brown Scapular. As with the above, wearing the Brown Scapular goes with its practices. I pray the rosary instead of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. I also pray the Morning Offering:

O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss your Scapular as a sign of your consecration), I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world joining with It the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them to the interests of Thy most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

In addition to this is holding the Scapular and kissing it - not always for myself, but for another person who I may happen to be thinking about.

5. The Rosary

Root or Tree



There are parts of the forest where pretty much the entire floor is made up of fallen trees, felled decades and decades ago, now rotting. One mark of this is the undulation - mounds and dips and crevices - of the floor. Some of the fallen trees made new trees with their side branches, and the main trunk has since become a large, above-ground root.

I don't think that is the case with the above drawing; but it's hard to tell what exactly went on. Did the floor merely wash away? In a sense: there was a tree beneath it, which has rotted. Where did one tree end and another begin - and then, it's like the floor feels false. One can sense it, like one is standing on a great cloud, far be it from actual solid ground; and everything that is growing out of it - from groundcover to underbrush to pillared trees - may as well be growing out of a cloud, so amazing does it suddenly appear.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Word & Question

The following poemthingy was written, I'll admit quite late and rather hastily, for the Playing Poetry meme Word & Question, hosted at Shredded Cheddar. The first W&Q contribution can be found here.

You can find the rules for this meme at the links above.

The Word: Hippopotamus

The Question: Is it harder to find the answer or know the question?


A Buddhist would answer with the latter,
and would form it as another question,
for they like answering questions with questions
until there is no-mind and no-matter.

An Aristotelian westerner
would answer with the former; his answer,
being in the form of an answer,
would leave no doubt, that it shouldn't be a bother

what the question is, for the answer will extend
beyond the question posed, shedding light
in some respect upon a universal whole.
Thus one could well ask why God made the muddy
river's heaving hippopotamus;

the sage before whom the question was mused
ought not - if he were true - to refuse.

And the real credence came, to question and answer,
in which either led to a better
in the other: like man and woman together,
like bee and blossom in the spring;
this salvific dawn of ease of everything mattering;
a flowering back to us of everything-our-world;
this answer to the mind of man, that an answer
really could be an answer, and then the question honed,

no more the repeated ghost-drama of self-echoes,
being answered for real, as an actual answer -
perhaps more close and real than the pagan would expect -
was fruited forth (the seed of which
was a cataclysmic crucifix)
amid concerns of angel-fitting pins,
by a corpulent Dominican.

Max Monday


Kleine Landschaft, Viareggio - By Max Beckmann




Coastal Landscape with Balloon - By Max Beckmann


"And always the sea plays in my thoughts, from near and far, through sun and storm." --Max Beckmann