Sunday, December 11, 2011


Some dumpsters at the unenclosed - and thus publicly viewable - backs of various stores and marketplaces now get painted with bright, flowery, folksy types of pictures. This is relatively new (and up to the decision of the store owners), the intention being to eradicate, or gloss over, the dreary sight of ponderous garbage bins and thus the awareness of uncleanliness standing near. It shares a similarity with the phenomenon of guerrilla gardening. Except that whoever is painting them is obviously getting paid.

This has also been done for some years now - with sophisticated digital realism - over utility boxes, to blend them into their surroundings more, or just to take that hard utilitarian edge off of them. Though with these, it is an initiative of city councils; and is, in effect, actually more artificial than if the utility boxes were left in their stark original state. For at least the dumpsters' folksy paintings require the hand of a living person, being clearly recognizable. The utility boxes are coated, using some laminate technology, as mentioned, with pre-made photo-realistic images.

The dichotomy this creates is strange: which is more hateful - a dumpsterish dumpster or an Easter-egg dumpster; a utilitarian utility box or a screen-saver-image utility box? As much as beauty can be seen in utilitarian surroundings - and even have a certain angular clarity because of the contrast made by nature that demarks itself always in spite of urban sprawl - such surroundings are still hateful. Metal dumpsters, traffic lights, stark steel streetlamps, telephone poles, endless asphalt are all ugly and so are utility boxes. The collective presence of such artifacts of convenience and utility cause an oppression that we have assimilated ourselves to - way too much.

But what is equally hateful - maybe even more - is the prettification of something that pretty much stinks all the time. It's a more benign parallel to, say, an abortion clinic all clean and brightly-lit with happy pictures on the walls: come on in and have your child dismembered - it's happy hour.

Part of us wants to say: if you are going to have a dumpster there, then let it be an honest dumpster, with nothing but rust stains and mounds of bird shit for its decoration. Another part likes the colourful change, the human stamp (which is most unlike a stamp) of cheer, flare, communication, beauty. But the latter is the part that ought not to be satisfied with dumpsters as its material; much as it ought not to be satisfied with beauty as the great "anti-pornography".


At the grocery store that was my previous employment, someone one morning threw a litter of newly born kittens into the back dumpster, and I went in there and fetched them out one by one: tiny mewlings that my palm could almost entirely enclose, their little mews piped out here and there from the trash.

The man who originally spied them came back and, putting them into another box, intended to take them to the SPCA to save them. I don't know if he was able to save them. He was so indignant. He kept expressing his indignation, and I wondered if he agreed with abortion.


Another time some lady had her dog tied up outside the front of the store and the dog kept yelping and yelping. It was cold outside. Maybe the dog just wanted the owner to come back. This other lady came in, vocalizing her indignation that a dog was tied up outside and yelping. After having it explained to her that the owner was finishing her shopping and would be outside shortly, she kept pronouncing how much it disturbed her to see the dog tied up and how much she did not like seeing it. Quite vocal, but in sanctimonious and pleading tones, she expressed disturbance several times until it became apparent she cared only about herself coming across as a compassionate woman.

What a drama queen you are, I thought. And I wondered if she agreed with abortion.


The latest Dappled Things is out, along with a new website. If you haven't subscribed to them, do, go for it. I eagerly await each issue in the mail. I wonder if I got knocked off the mailing list, as I haven't yet received the latest email about the new issue.


The other day I went to Elizabeth Scalia's blog, The Anchoress, which I don't go to very often, and glanced over a small post she did on Dorothy Day - probably one in a gazillion billion posts she's done on Dorothy Day if I were to make a wild guess - and noticed she posted an "icon" by Robert Lentz of Dorothy Day to go along with the post.

I don't cruise peoples sites going tut-tut over things they've posted, but my general rule of thumb on the interwebs is: if a thought occurs to you then mention it for its own sake; express ideas singularly without IMHO's; and try not to assimilate to the unspoken club atmosphere that so often prevails; that is, in short, do not assimilate to the atmosphere that is perpetual high school.

So, I commented in a state of complete detachment:

Why post an “icon” by Robert Lentz? She hasn’t been canonized, therefore depicting her in the iconographic tradition (though that “icon” is by no means iconographic) with a halo is denigrating of the sacredness of real icons.

She replied:

[I posted it because I likes it. Your mileage may vary. You don't have to like it. That's what freedom is all about. And once upon a time, someone would say, "well, meh, I don't like it, but it's a free country and there's no accounting for taste." Then the internet happened, and everyone decided they had to comment on everyone else's choices, all the time! :-) -admin]

Then I replied:

But you see Mrs. Scalia, it's goes beyond what you "likes", or what I like. It was pretty obvious by the fact that you posted the "icon" that you likes it. Nor am I impinging on your freedom by asking what I asked.

I asked a simple question that brought up the fact that the "icon" - aside from being the work of one who blasphemes God, degrades the saints, and the iconographic tradition all together - uses a halo for Dorothy Day (just like he uses a halo for Thomas Merton, Martin Luther [King Jr.] etc.) when she has not been canonized.

You are perhaps aware of iconographic language and symbol. Using the halo in iconography is veritably, literally the same as writing "Saint" - officially. It is the exact same as if you were to write, "Saint Dorothy Day" in total seriousness as though that is what the Church has declared.

This sort of willy-nilly use of iconographic language is denigrating of the sacredness of icons. You post it because you like it. That's nice. There are some things that require one's consideration to go beyond "likes".

Yes, the internet happened, which is where you post your writings on a public blog (which also happens to garner you financial support just by me clicking on your blog). So yeah, me asking you that question is not exactly the same as me nosing into your personal likes. I don't care about that.

But thanks for your patronizing response.


This thought of having consideration for objective realities beyond one's own likes has made me think I should probably read Pope John Paul II's encyclical on freedom and responsibility. I should probably finish The Splendour of Truth first. I believe in freedom of speech, but always with a certain nameless disbelief in the sovereignty that seems to go along with that phrase.

I've seen it a lot; people appeal to freedom of speech in order to shut down discussion, to shut down speech. Americans seem especially susceptible to this virus. In fact, in this matter they can be grossly arrogant. What's interesting is that this is one of the big things that conservative Christians criticize enemies of the Church for: they decry enemies of the Church who, appealing to free speech, cause eternal harm to souls through the culture.

When you have a public blog, what you post on it is inherently open to public question (otherwise your blog would be privatized). You can set the rules of play and conduct, such as no anonymous comments are allowed, no ad hominem attacks, you can ban people left and right according to your whim's content and so forth, but to appeal absolutely to the hilt that your public blog, in all of the things you choose to post to the world, is somehow your personal private home beyond all questioning is ridiculous. That whole internet thing, that is your public blog's inherent ontology, kind of renders that majorly inaccurate metaphorical appeal, well, stupid.


Hilary Jane Margaret White has this article in The Remnant about the definition of neo-Catholic.

"In brief then, neo-Catholics, or neo-conservative Catholics are people who like to think of themselves as conservatives both politically and religiously, who are terrified by the idea of looking like a fanatic, who like to talk a great deal about how the Church has "a place in the public debate". Though they object to being called "moderate", they secretly love the term to be applied to them, and feel like they are at last being taken seriously by The Big Kids at the New York Times, the BBC and CNN when they are invited to comment on debate programmes. In general they are mostly an American phenomenon, with a bit of spillage over the Canadian border."

That part about being terrified of looking like a fanatic caught my eye especially, as one of the thoughts that has occurred to me over and over again through the years of reading various sites on the web has been, namely, that many, or some, seem to be overruled by a fanatical desire to not appear fanatical - The Great Normal is the title we should attain to with fanatical ferocity - like certain Potterheads for instance.


Take any quote, heck, this quote, from any thoughtful critic. Here's one from Dr. Edoardo Rialti, as quoted in Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture by Michael O' Brien:

"[Although] on the surface there may apparently be many points in common, the imaginative source and the educational proposal as the base of Rowling's novels is very different from that of Tolkien and Lewis, and communicates a vision of the world and of man that is full of errors and deeply dangerous suggestions; and these are all the more seductive because they are interposed with half-truths and enthralling writing. But as Lewis warned, "poisons, as they become sweeter, do not stop killing." The truly great fantasies in healthy Western tradition have always been a window opened on the profound order of the created universe and on mankind. Tolkien, in his major essay on fairy tales, recalls that the narrator of fairy tales can move away from the physically-created universe, but not its moral order: we can imagine a universe illuminated by a green sun, but we must not succumb to the temptation to present as a positive reality the situation where spiritual and moral structures are reversed or confused: a world where evil is good.

This is exactly what happens in Harry Potter. Although single positive values can be found in the story, at the heart of this tale witchcraft is proposed as a positive ideal, including the violent manipulation of things and persons thanks to occult knowledge and the prerogative of the few, and ends justifying the means, since the wise, the chosen, the intellectual know how to control the dark powers and turn them into good, isn't it so? This is the "civilisation of the machines" against which Lewis warned us. Bernanos and John Paul II have discussed this as well.

This is a deep and serious lie, the ancient Gnostic temptation to unite salvation and the truth with secret knowledge. ... Harry Potter is nevertheless rich in Christian values, but they are detached from the real source that makes them be, the true order of things."

See now the Potterhead's face burning red like a tomato and steam blowing out of his ears, which are presently whistling like a kettle, upon his hero The Potter being criticized in terms that adhere to the unchangeable reality that Christian symbology manifests and which cannot be mutated without harm to persons. See him fume and guffaw as though his grandfather had just shuffled by and made thuddish-sounding criticisms that he could not allow even an inch to, for it would mean that he has been - God forbid - impressionable, worst of all faults to the neo-con soldier! Look how they then seem to release - without meaning to, because their kneejerk thrashing conniption fits can't help it - curses and spells against their enemy critics that their subconscious learned from the series' subtext of symbolic inversions and corruptions. See him now casting his spell into his google account's password box [Horcrux666] as he prepares to unleash in answer a torrent of horribly banal neo-conservative logic on the internet, and lo, the account obeys his very command!

See him now precisely begin to resemble those fanatical Lila Rose supporters when they said things like, "Oh! Oh! So you want babies to be killed then! Oh, oh! So you think police should not do sting operations on sexual predators and drug dealers! Oh, oh! So you think telling your children about Santa Claus is a lying sin! Oh, oh! So you think we should no longer read The Odyssey! Oh, oh! So you think we shouldn't read any classical pagan work! Oh, oh, So you think that St. Paul should not have appealed to the Unknown God! Oh, oh! and you think we should do away with the Bible!"

See him now, gleefully satisfied that his glaring superficiality is somehow the Great Normal of the day (which of course it is), as he then lights upon his broomstick and, showing his supreme disdain for all the stupid Muggles of the world, up, up, up and aways into the air, going, "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Nah nah nah nah boo boo, stick your head in horse poo!"


What you see before you is called the Silky Zubat:

A Japanese pull saw. Those Japanese know how to make saws. This side of a chainsaw, something like the Silky Zubat is as close as you will get to cutting through tree branches and trunks like butter.

Of course, I'm sure those old-time hand saws, such as a team of two would use in the lumber industry before chainsaws and such, are just as good.


I will make Christstollen again this year for Christmas. It appeals to me. I've never had Christmas pudding, like Father Z. makes. I'm sure it's great. But my German ancestry, however little it may be, has a staid, firm foot in the door. Christstollen is for the quiet night all muffled in the snow and warm fruits found nicely stowed under it. Christmas pudding is all a blazing glory of richness with the lighting it on fire and everybody going, "Ooo-la-la" - very Dickens.


"Thank you very much for the instructive book. It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly."
--Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, March 7, 2003, letter to Gabriele Kuby

"Thank you very much for your courageous engagement against occultism and magic."
--Josef Ratzinger, December 2003, hand-written Christmas card sent to Gabriele Kuby




Ho! Ho! Ho!


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Enbrethiliel said...


Yes, Stilwell, but what do you really feel??? =P

We don't paint dumpsters where I live, but you should see the "abstract art" attempting to pretty up the overpasses.

So did you get another answer from Elizabeth Scalia?

There's something about blogging that makes the snippy response, "If you don't like it, then don't read it," appropriate . . . and there's something about being a blogger who gets hundreds of hits a day that excuses an attitude that commenters "trolls until proven innocent" . . . but then there's also something about blogging for money . . .

I'll finish that sentence when I'm feeling properly dystopian. I love this Internet thing, but I believe we're letting it use us even more deftly than we could ever use it.

A rather neutral word on Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling's series is very much like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. You'll get so much more conversational mileage (both intellectual and pseudo-intellectual) from them than from all other books you've read combined.

I find rather fascinating the critique of the "magic" in Harry Potter as more mechanical than you'd expect from Fantasy. It has been nearly a year since my last Rowling reread, but nothing in my understanding of the Potterverse revolts against it.

Paul Stilwell said...

No, no more response. I just find the supposed "communication" thing about the internet just really not there. I mean the halo thing is pretty objective - or as I said, beyond like and dislike. If we can't communicate about that, then this internet communication thing is utterly primitive and barbaric.

What's even more interesting than asking for donations is receiving pay according to the number of hits one receives.

Paul Stilwell said...

Let's say for instance that I was a blogger at Patheos, and as with the bloggers at Patheos, received money according to the number of hits that my blog received.

So one day I began a series of posts on Harry Potter - a hard-hitting series of posts against the books.

As is usual with the internet, this series of posts generated, due to the inherent controversy of the subject, a great number of hits to my blog, both from people lurking and reading the ongoing debate in the combox, and from those engaged in the debate in the combox.

Great. Good.

But let's say I responded to the people (to those who were combating my arguments) with curt dismissiveness, sarcasm, derisiveness and so forth.

Yet from each one of the hits made by those people who I am responding to, I am receiving money.

How would one square that up with their conscience?