Researching A Comment, I Discovered…

As you might know, gentle reader, I attended a nominally Catholic, a Jesuit, university, and I am half-Cath (which is all bastard according to the summary of Catholics marrying outside the faith found in So What’s The Difference), so I have had some exposure to Catholic teachings. But not a lot of formal theological training in that regard.

Over twenty years ago, I got the phrase Ex Cathedra in my head, and I “remembered” from my university days (twenty years ago, my university days were already memories, but fresh memories, unlike today where I am not entirely sure about most of my university education, including why? and why there?) that Ex Cathedra means the instances where the Pope spoke infallibly, almost as though Jesus and/or God were speaking. I thought the Pope had done so twice, the divine incarnation and the assumption of Mary into Heaven. Shortly thereafter,I was out to lunch (gentle reader, you might think that I still am, metaphorically speaking) with a Jesuit initiate, so I asked him, and he told me that those were not Ex Cathedra pronouncements. And I believed that for twenty plus years.

Until I was researching a comment I wanted to leave on this post (I wanted to make sure I spelled Ex Cathedra correctly).

Which lead me to the Wikipedia entry on papal infallibility which indicates that the Pope spoke Ex Cathedra not twice, but seven times.

Including the two I thought were the only two.

Interestingly, the Pope spoke Ex Cathedra once about beatification, twice about Jesus Christ, twice about the Virgin Mary, and twice about…. Cornelius Jansen? That’s not a heresy with which I was familiar, and it’s interesting that Wikipedia includes these as infallible.

However, the Wikipedia entry on Ineffabilis Deus, that is, the Immaculate Conception says:

Ineffabilis Deus (Latin for “Ineffable God”) is an apostolic constitution by Pope Pius IX. It defines the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on December 8, 1854, the date of the annual Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and followed from a positive response to the encyclical Ubi primum. Mary’s immaculate conception is one of only two pronouncements that were made ex cathedra (the other in Munificentissimus Deus regarding the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) and is therefore considered by the Catholic Church to be infallible through the extraordinary magisterium.

Which is what I said, what the Jesuit denied, and not what Wikipedia said in the infallible Pope entry.

Which is why Wikipedia is a good starting point for interesting research but should not be considered the final word.

Unlike this blog or Friar’s comments thereupon, gentle reader. These you can take to the bank.

Brian J.’s Reading, Listening Habits: Under Fire

I kind of feel under attack from various sources lately as I am known to read less-than-high quality poetry, cheap men’s adventure paperbacks, and artist monographs from artists that I don’t like and who lack basic technical skill if not fine motor control.

First, Friar tries to stage an intervention by linking to a First Things article. Friar says:

Writing at First Things, Leah Libresco outlines why bad art may not be the best thing for us. It’s an interesting piece and one item stood out because it’s an opinion I already held: The CGI Yoda from the Star Wars prequels, despite its ability to hop all over the place in a lightsaber duel, is not as good as the simple puppet voiced by Frank Oz in the original trilogy.

Come on, you know who he’s talking about.

Second, Severian tackles one of my musical crushes from the 1990s, Jewel:

In case you don’t remember, or were too young / old to be aware of her, that’s pop singer Jewel, in retrospect the most Nineties of all 90s poseurs. Trust me when I say that if you had any interest at all in college girls in the 1990s — prurient or otherwise — you can probably still recite the entire track list of Pieces of You (which, not coincidentally, is also the most Nineties possible album title). If you really want to give a guy in his 40s PTSD, play that and Jagged Little Pill back to back outside his bedroom window. After five minutes, he’ll either start shooting at you, or dig out his old flannels and Doc Martens and start kicking around a hacky sack…

Ow, that stings. I got Pieces of You after a epic quest evening of hitting record stores looking for it in that pre-Amazon and mostly pre-Internet era. I even bought her book of poetry, for Pete’s sake (which is the young person equivalent of grandmother poetry; a few nice moments, maybe, but mostly a nice pat for trying). I bought Spirit and even 0304 in this century (I was not impressed). And that was it. A couple of years later, she switched to country (as a lot of pop stars tried), but I haven’t really paid attention in the last fifteen years (how long?).

Also, on a side note, I also had Jagged Little Pill on CD back in the day; I got it before Pieces of You. But I got tired of Morrisette’s schtick and got rid of it sometime early this century. I still have Pieces of You, though, and the iTunes counter shows that I have listened to Pieces of You and Spirit once since I swapped computers a year and a half ago and 0304 twice.

Okay, so the Internet has been targeting me (I am the center of the Internet, gentle reader–everything on it is about me). What about the great masters?

Matthew Arnold, in his address entitled “Milton”, which was given on the dedication of the Milton window at St. Margaret’s Church:

It appears to me difficult to deny that the growing greatness and influence of the United States does bring with it some danger to the ideal of a high and rare excellence. The average man is too much a religion there; his performance is unduly magnified, his shortenings are not duly seen and admitted. A lady in the State of Ohio sent to me only the other day a volume on American authors; the praise given throughout was of such high pitch that in thinking of her I could not forbear saying that for only one or two of the authors named was such a strain of praise admissible, and that we lost all real standard of excellence by praising so uniformly and immoderately. She answered me with charming good tempers, that very likely I was quite right, but it was pleasant to her to think that excellence was common and abundant.

You see? Even late nineteenth century poets were gunning for me.

Although that last sentiment in the Arnold quote, gentle reader, might be a bit more than I truly believe, I am in favor of reading not only excellent things, but also things that are not excellent so as to develop a better understanding of what things are not good and perhaps why. Also, I come from a university English background, where at workshops we’re supposed to find at least something nice in the worst tripe. I didn’t do so well at it when I was in the university, but I have since mellowed.

And, as you might expect, I listened to a Rebecca Black EP, for crying out loud. Without Dustbury continuing to promote her, where will her career go?

I Have Followed Politics Too Long

When discussing this past week’s Monday Night Football game featuring the Kansas City Red Packers against the Baltimore Poe Poems, I told my wife it was a good matchup because the Ravens quarterback, Lamar Alexander, was also a running quarterback who can throw.

And then I thought, Wait a minute. Lamar Alexander is the Senator from Tennessee who ran for president 20 years ago with signs that said simply Lamar!

The Ravens quarterback, Lamar Jackson is only a few years older than this blog.

Revisiting Old Predictions

In a Good Book Hunting post in July 2018, I predicted:

The real question is, which of these books will I read first (aside from Hundred Dollar Baby)? Probably the cartoons. How many will I have read by this time in 2020? Probably the cartoons.

Analysis: FALSE.

I’ll have to figure out where that collection of cartoons is as it’s football season, so I have time to review cartoons between plays. I’d thought I’d already read it, but I don’t see it on the list.

Perhaps I should consider not buying so many books since I tend to buy more in a given year that I actually read–and that’s about a hundred–so I am doing nothing but falling behind.

But I have this real fear about not being able to find a book to read that I’m excited about–it’s been a while since I’ve had to wander aimlessly by my bookshelves because nothing really appeals to me in the moment I’m looking for something to read–but the memory of that fear keeps me going.

The Winningest

Tam K. asks:

What kind of loser still writes a blog in 2020, anyway?

Basically, people who took Hugh Hewitt’s 2005 book Blog too much to heart or someone who has heard a business coach in 2020 say You’ve got to have a blog! You’ve got to have a brand! that, with diligent work and a proven track record over decades of fresh content will enable you to sell a hundred or so copies of your novel, one copy of your play (not a typo; it was to Charles Hill, PBUH), and a handful of copies of your poetry collection even though each is only $.99 on Kindle. Well, okay, the business coaches say the first part; the latter part of it comes from my own experience (and the thousands of words on this blog could probably have been better developed into a habit of writing actual books instead so maybe I could have eventually sold maybe five hundred books total.

All daily for the three or four regular readers and to keep my site fresh for search engines so I’m still a relevant hit for reports on obscure books.

Maybe Ms. K’s question was rhetorical, but I certainly explained one of the kinds of loser still blogging.

(Also, note, although I say decades of experience, this blog with its Blogger origin story are only seventeen and a half years old, so clearly I am using hyperbole.)

I Know That Feeling

Kim du Toit had a drawing (for a rifle, natch), and in announcing the winners, he says:

Like the last time, I was terrified that someone I know very well would win. Happily, I’ve never met the man in person, so it’s all good.

A while back, I was a tester for a consumer-facing Web site that ran a couple of contests to drum up interest. The prizes were good: early comic books with values in the thousands of dollars. And although the company bought some banner ads and whatnot to promote it, the contests were both won by friends of mine–actually, a married couple who bore my godson. Well, they had me sponsor their fourth child. But they won both of the contests, partly because the number of entries was kind of low, but still.

I recused myself from participating in judging the contests because I knew the entrants, but the boss man still wondered if I was somehow rigging the game. Aside from getting my friends to enter, not at all.

I wonder what they did with their comic books. They didn’t loan them to me for sure.

I’m Glad I Said Something Nice

As you know, gentle reader, we bloggers are a vain lot and we watch our stat trackers very carefully. Personally, I’m vain and disappointed as my traffic is not what it was in the early part of the century when the blogosphere was young. So I can see very clearly who’s coming to the blog (Korean Web crawlers mostly).

Every once and again, I get a search engine hit for a small collection of poetry followed by one or more direct hits to the same page from a different IP and device:

Yesterday, a couple of visitors went to my report earlier this year on The Country Roads and Other Poems.

I assume that a family member of the author searched for his or her relative, found my book report, and shared it with someone else in the family.

Which is why I am glad that I had something nice to say. You might have noticed that my book reports have mellowed over the years, especially when it comes to smaller books or poetry chapbooks. These are real people, you know, and it’s likely that some of them or their descendants might someday stumble across a book report here, and I’d like for them to find nothing but joy in finding that their books or their relatives’ books are being read decades later somewhere across the country.

As it happens, I have seen this visit pattern more than once for As Autumn Approaches, too.

Sounds Like It’s Right Up My Alley

Every so often, I go to LP Cover Lover to glance at the record covers there. The blog focuses on older LP covers, so things from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s abound. Although the blog focuses a lot on foreign issues, I’m ever hopeful I’ll spot something I own there (I also feel hopeful I will eventually see something I own on Lileks’ Friday Bleature on vintage vinyl).

So I went through one of my periodic reviews of LP Cover Lover, and I saw this, and I thought, Man, that’s a metal album I should own!


(Image swiped from the aforementioned LP Cover Lover.)

We’re Going To Tear Your Kingdom Down by Satan. or Satan by the band We’re Going To Tear Your Kingdom Down. Sounds heavy, with a lot of down-tuned guitar work.

Wait a minute: “Satan” is supposed to be a noun of direct address here. The religious music artist is actually the Young Adult Choir from the First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church in Baltimore.

So more Teen Tones than Semblant.

At any rate, my perusing of LP Cover Lover not only misled me in that misled-for-hopefully-humorous-effect-on-the-blog way, but also cued me to an EP and/or album I really want to find now:


{Image swiped from the aforementioned LP Cover Lover.)

A Christmas album with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra (and Keely Smith)? Definitely something I would start spinning in November at Nogglestead.

Ms. K Doesn’t Care How Old You Feel, Old Man

However, she notes:

And you know what? It might be that many years again until I see the biggest geek sensation of 2016. When I come across a DVD set at a garage sale. Or while scavenging an abandoned farmhouse After.

Brian J., why did you take a screenshot of the tweet instead of embedding it? you might ask. Because, gentle reader, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 17+ years of blogging, it’s that embedding something means that I won’t see in 2031 what I embedded because Goowitterple will have retired the format, so I’ll have no idea what I was planning to watch in 2050-something.

Which, of course, won’t be useful anyway if there’s an After, but I’ll still be able to use the DVDs I scavenged as a rudimentary mirror. How did I get so old? I will ask myself.

The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN

I might have mentioned, gentle reader, that amongst the 1500-odd book reports on this humble blog, for some reason my book report from 2013 on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Sire de Maletroit’s Door is very popular. Probably because it’s on the first page of Google search results.

Would you care to guess what is the second most popular book report here?

Continue reading “The Second Most Viewed Book Report on MfBJN”

Living The Life Of Lileks

I’ve always looked a bit at the life of Lileks and thought, Man, that’s what I wanted my life to be, especially when I was at the university (which was before the Internet, so before I knew of Lileks). I mean, family, writing newspaper columns, a vast audience across the country….

Welp, I am finally aligned with his lifestyle, at least the bit he describes this morning:

Can’t say I was the most productive person this week. Can’t say I did much of consequence, besides the usual work. Some weeks I feel as if I did my part, but some weeks I think, well, my part in what, exactly?

That resonates too much.

Not Feeling Bloggy

The current troubles, unlike the previous unpleasantness, made me do something that I probably haven’t done in twenty years.

I closed my Web browser yesterday.

I wish I could tell you I was more productive, but mostly I just wrote another letter to my grandmother who apparently delights in them, so I’m writing her every couple of weeks.

Which is more pleasant than either my Facebook feed or the Web currently.

Apparently, This Will Now Be An Annual Tradition At MfBJN

As I mentioned, gentle reader, I mostly do this blog for my own entertainment, as I like to prowl through my archives, often using the visit counter’s note of a random search engine hit as a starting point, wherein I read the post that the visitor browsed, and then I start next posting or previous posting to see what else I might have been doing/thinking/reading at that time.

So somehow, I got to browsing my archives, when I got to a post from last March about Tide’s Fresh Linen scent called Unlike The Other Leading Brands.

In recent memory, I did another post with the same gag, albeit presented differently, this very month: What Do Clean Clothes Washed With Other Varieties Of Tide Smell Like?

Sorry for the reruns. I’m getting to be like that old guy who keeps telling the same stories over and over again. Just ask my children.

Suddenly, I Am Big In Korea

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from Korea. The Good Korea:

I don’t know what to make of it; it looks like the IP address from Kakao is actually owned by Kakao and hasn’t been reassigned to something like Google with an old entry showing up in my stats.

I assume this means that I’ve suddenly been indexed by a South Korean search engine or that somehow elevated in its rankings.

But, of course, I don’t wonder if it’s not something more sinister like some kind of hacking attempt or probe.

Still, welcome to the blog, Mr., Mrs., and/or Miss Park.

Is that racist, to use a popular Korean surname, one held by 8.4% of the population, in that statement? No more than saying “Keeping up with the Joneses” is somehow classist, denigrating social climbers who don’t know their place in society (or yours, peasant, so don’t try to spend your way to success and fulfillment). However, I am pretty sure saying Park is a common Korean last name is racist if you want to call someone who uses it racist.

Config Change

I’ve made a slight config change to the blog. Instead of streaming whole posts to feed readers, I’ve changed it to only sending a summary, which makes some readers who were invisible to my stat tracker suddenly appear.

Wow, hey, I do have readers.

Thanks, and I hope it’s not too inconvenient to gratify my ego by clicking through.