Friday, June 6, 2008
Looks like the superdelegates are headed towards a lovely finale, at least according to this piece from today's New York Times. Written by an astrophysicist, the article combines some fancy-pants math with the polls about our ever charming Democratic candidates and comes to the conclusion that right now, "if the general election were held today, Barack Obama would lose to John McCain, while Mr. McCain would lose to Mrs. Clinton."
Fun, right? I found this on realclearpolitics.com. They keep me incredibly busy at Connolley Bove Lodge & Hutz (I would love it if someone could explain why there are no commas between the names of this firm- I've been reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss, a deliciously sarcastic book on "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." British humor par excellence... anyway, through perusal of said book, I've become attuned to stuff like this). I'm working in both the business office, and for various attorneys, so I have quite a bit of freedom to explore the various parts of a firm, and meet people. Everyone is friendly, the work is not too hard and its a lovely atmosphere, with the minor exception of a creepy clown poster, titled Exile on my coworkers desk.
The summer internship has been actually quite fun so far- there is a softball league down here in Wilmington, and hopefully this year we'll beat the Public Defenders to take the championship. Luckily, there is a rule mandating three girls on the field at all times, so the guys can't keep the fun all to themselves. Our star player happens to be the other domer at the firm, an attorney. His office is a testimony to the glory of our Alma Mater, complete with a golden helmet on display and vintage prints of the campus. Anyway, they pay for beer and pizza afterwards and its a good time in general.
Today, I've been thinking a lot about D-Day, (I'm finishing this on June 7th- but D-Day is the 6th). I used to love reading about World War II growing up, and listening to the stories of my grandparents and their friends. I hope that as we grow up and veterans are no longer alive to remind us, we continue to pray for the men who valiantly offered their lives on that day for their families, their country and for us.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Having just cast my ballot here in New Mexico’s primary election, I wish to say a brief word concerning this year’s heated political season. Now, it is very important that I am the Rover’s Ethics and Religion editor and not its Politics editor. Yet, with Aristotle we must maintain that ethics and politics are inseparably tied.
My ethical/political contention for this election season is that despite the many issues of which one may be passionate, the most important is still abortion. Granted, I am not (nor have I ever been) a fan of the war in Iraq. To date, 4091 Americans have heroically lost their lives in this war effort lasting over 5 years. As horrible as this is, it is even more horrible that the same number of babies (~4000) are murdered everyday within this country, through the atrocity of abortion. As terrible as a bad economy and ridiculously high gas prices are, the human death toll among the most innocent infinitely outweighs any economic costs. Whatever one’s “pet issue” might be, abortion is vastly more important. Just looking at the numbers, abortion is the greatest tragedy that has ever befallen humanity—and this notwithstanding the heart-rending stories of those who suffer from the aftermath of abortion, especially the mothers.
From a religious standpoint in regards to abortion, let me say a brief word about Ancient Israel’s idolatrous worship of the god, Moloch—this is a powerful apology for the Church’s position against abortion. It is abundantly clear that Church teaches that one absolutely cannot be both pro-choice and Catholic; if one is a Catholic one is, by definition, pro-life. But everybody knows this. Fewer people know about Moloch worship. Of all the “gods” who Ancient Israel continuously fell to in idolatry the worst was always Moloch. Recent archaeologists have discovered remains of this ancient near-eastern idol that can be read about in Leviticus chapter 20 (among other places). The idol stood erect with its hands joined and extended directly outward in front of its body by which it could “receive” its oblations. On its hands there were burning coals. Now what made this idol so bad was that the sacrifice offered to it was always a child sacrifice. One would put one’s child on the burning coals, where it would struggle until finally being burned to death.
In the Old Testament, God did not put up with this awful practice as more than anything else, Moloch worship brought down divine vengeance (and rightly so). Nor should we put up with abortion today, which is nothing other than a modified form of Moloch worship. The only difference is that we name our idol “convenience,” “finances,” “self-determination” and “choice,” instead of Moloch.Please, this election season, continue to do the right thing ethically and religiously. Please continue to vote for the pro-life candidate.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
A recent rather thrilling experience caused me to reflect upon the notion of celebrity. A couple of weeks ago, Notre Dame celebrated the 10 year anniversary of her Dublin Programme, the programme I have been blessed to be a student in all year. We had four days of fabulous celebrations, field trips, lectures, and liturgies, offering us the opportunity to appreciate the strong ties Notre Dame has built with Ireland over the past ten years. The calibre of the Irish Studies and Irish Language and Literature faculty on Notre Dame's campus is unparalleled in Irish Studies in America, and that alone is impressive enough, but the relationship between Notre Dame and leading Irish intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen in Dublin is astounding. Case in point: in the space of four days, on account of their close relationship with the Dublin Programme, I was in close proximity to, and benefitted from the artistic endeavors of, Seamus Heaney, Stephen Rea, and the Chieftains.
One of my five best stories from studying abroad this year is a recent product of brilliant coincidences during the 10 Year Anniversary celebrations. On Friday of the anniversary weekend, I was meant to go on a programme field trip to Glendalough, which I was looking forward to, when a number of errands came up that I needed to take care of. A bit disappointed that I wasn't going to say one last goodbye to Glendalough, I in fact wound up being in the right place at the right time. While at Notre Dame's Dublin Centre picking up the petty cash I needed for the tasks I'd been given, the director of our Dublin Programme walked into the office, handed me a box of freshly-printed poems, and asked if I would mind running them over to Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's house to get them signed for later in the weekend. I asked if he wanted me to just drop them off on my way to my other errands, but he said no, he needed me to sit with Heaney while he signed them to make sure that I got them back, autographed, to the Notre Dame Centre that morning. Seriously. So he gave me the address, I hopped in a cab, and I had the great honor to meet Mr. Heaney in his house and to talk to him for half an hour while he signed the poems. I kept feeling like I ought to have been nervous, but he was such a humble, kind man that it was impossible. Perfectly relaxed, we chatted about Notre Dame, the Dublin Programme, my experiences studying at Trinity College, my favourite parts of Ireland, his poetry, and the celebrations going on that weekend. I was really struck by how casual and normal the whole encounter was. This is one of the most famous and recognizable men in Ireland- I was actually in my local a couple of months ago when he happened to walk into the pub, and within minutes people were clustering around him, introducing themselves or just gaping at him from the back. And now here I was in his sunroom talking to him as casually as I'd just been talking to the cab driver, and he was calling me by name and smiling at what I said, and completely focused on the little task at hand. Can you imagine an American celebrity of that calibre being so humble and unassuming?
Another distinctively Irish aspect of celebrity which I've enjoyed this year is how much of a community Ireland's great artists and writers really are: they are personally connected to each other, they reflect on each other's work, and their work is truly a dialogue which the community engages in. It's not just in academia, although I certainly noticed it in my contemporary Irish poetry class, where poets were clearly responding to each other with their work, and where my professor was personally acquainted with many of the poets we studied. I was listening to a U2 song the other night and noticed that it quoted a line of Heaney's poetry, and U2 is as mainstream as you get. In America, celebrity is often an entirely hollow notion: it is not a recognition of a true aesthetic achievement, but simply a mark of popularity, trendiness, faddishness, or at most, mere entertainment. It rarely correlates to artistry, articulation, intellect, or originality. The "community" of celebrities are merely furred and feathered fops who try to out do each other materially in public. It is entirely self-serving.
This is my last night in Ireland. I will miss the gentle, unassuming, genuine nature of the great Irishmen I have met here.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Our classroom building--besides being around the corner from Trafalgar Square--is in the heart of the theater district, and as I walked to class this morning, I noticed excitedly that Noël Coward's play, "Brief Encounter," was showing at one of the theaters. I am completely obsessed with British humor...probably the only American humor that can compare is that of "The Office," which is my other obsession. (For some reason, my Romanian parents nursed my brother and me on shows like "Fawlty Towers" and "Keeping Up Appearances" instead of SNL and other late night American comedy shows.)
As I was musing over dinner about how I'd get tickets without paying an arm and a leg, I remembered that my friend had somehow gotten tickets to see Stephen Fry live on June 11! For those of you who don't know who he is--poor unfortunate souls!--Fry is the erudite and lovable valet Jeeves to Hugh Laurie's incredibly idiotic yet hilarious Bertie Wooster in the British TV series "Jeeves and Wooster" (based on P.G. Wodehouse's novels).
All this babbling brings me to my point: everyone, at some point in their lives, must be exposed to the humor of the Brits. It is deliciously dry, and for the most part, not quite as coarse as ours. With the exception of Monty Python, I've met only a handful of people who have benefited from the brilliance of British comedy. So, I've compiled a list of some must-sees (and must-reads!) below [summaries courtesy of the ever-useful imdb.com and BBC website]:
- Fawlty Towers: Justifiably voted number one in the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes in 2000, "Fawlty Towers" is a jewel in the BBC's comedy crown--albeit running for a mere 12 episodes. The show was famously inspired by a seethingly rude hotel proprietor John Cleese encountered whilst away filming with the Monty Python team. Inept and manic English hotel owner and manager, Basil Fawlty (Cleese), isn't cut out for his job. He's intolerant, rude and paranoid. All hell frequently breaks loose as Basil tries to run the hotel, constantly under verbal (and sometime physical) attack from his unhelpful wife Sybil, and hindered by the incompetent, but easy target, Manuel; their Spanish waiter. Fortunately he has an intelligent and attractive maid, Polly, to help him out of the various situations he gets into. Basil was the perfect vehicle for Cleese's unbelievable comic talents: mixing the biting verbal tirades against his wife and guests with the physical dexterity utilised to charge about between self-induced disasters. For a hilarious sample of the show, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0tNAclytdY
- Keeping Up Appearances: British sitcom has always been fascinated by snobs, but few were ever as monstrous as Hyacinth Bucket (who insists it's pronounced "Bouquet"), the central character in "Keeping Up Appearances." Played with aplomb by Patricia Routledge, Hyacinth is a character with few, if any, saving graces. Her pompous, self-serving attitude makes life miserable for all around her. Long-suffering husband Richard gets the brunt of it, with Hyacinth quick to chastise if he steps out of line ("I don't like you making decisions unilaterally", she tells him). But there are others in the firing line, including nervous neighbour Elizabeth, her brother Emmet, and Michael the Vicar. However, the real ire is reserved for the snob's council estate dwelling sisters: Rose and Daisy. While the former irks with her man-eating ways, the latter absolutely appalls thanks to her slobbish lifestyle and indolent, scruffy husband Onslow. Sofa-bound, unshaven and absolutely unbowed by his harridan of a sister-in-law, he remained Hyacinth's nemesis across the show's five series. Most episodes involve a phone call from Hyacinth's unseen sister Violet, you know, "the one with the Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony!" and, at some point, a telephone conversation with off-screen son Sheridan, who's always the cadge for money to pursue his homosexual lifestyle (although that's never recognised by his proud mum).
- The Vicar of Dibley: When their vicar passed away in the middle of a service, the inhabitants of the small Oxfordshire village of Dibley expected his replacement to be another old man with a beard, a Bible and bad breath. Instead, they got a babe with a bob-cut and a magnificent bosom. Geraldine Granger is a woman - yes, woman - who enjoys nothing more than a good laugh and a packet of chocolate hob nobs. The thoroughly modern, pop music-loving vicar is far from the only eccentric character in the village, however.There's local Tory counsellor David Horton CBE, gentleman farmer and self-acknowledged pillar of the community. As chairman of the parish council, he is generally the first person to oppose anything that even remotely sounds like fun. His dim but well-meaning son Hugo is his father's opposite in every way. He eventually manages to woo Alice, the equally spaciously-brained verger and Geraldine's best friend. Though her lack of smarts can sometimes make her more of a hindrance than a help, Alice's relationship with Geraldine is genuinely affectionate: she even named her first child after the vicar. Actually, she named her first child after the vicar, her favourite Tellytubby and her favourite TV chef: Geraldine Laa Laa Ainsley Harriott Horton. Other locals who keep the vicar busy include foul-mouthed farmer Owen Newitt, who takes a rather unhealthy interest in the bowel movements of his cows. There's also pedantic parish council secretary Frank Pickle; when Mr Horton called him a "pedantic old fart" for keeping the minutes so fastidiously, Frank's response was "Should I actually write 'fart', or 'f**t'?". At last, there's stammering Jim Trott, who prefaces every sentence with "No-no-no-no-no-no", generally leading to confusion about whether he's supporting or against something. "The Vicar Of Dibley" was the brainchild of Richard Curtis, famous for penning the likes of "Blackadder," Four Weddings And A Funeral and Love, Actually.
- Jeeves and Wooster: Bertram Wilberforce Wooster is a young, wealthy, bumbling buffoon of a bachelor who lives in his London flat with his valet, Jeeves. Bertie always seems to be on the run from his formidable Aunt Agatha. When that isn't the case, though, he's usually caught in a spot of bother due to the mishaps of his friends, such as Bingo Little and Tuppy Glossop; or those of his enemies, Sir Roderick Glossop and his daughter, Honoria. Then it's up to Jeeves, Bertie's valet, to think up a plan to save the day, usually involving a hilarious and clever scheme with unexpected twists. Both Wodehouse's books and the TV series itself are delights that can't be missed. Check out this video to see their amusing repartees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYf5YPNnfRY&NR=1
- As Time Goes By: Sometimes the art of making a successful sitcom looks effortless and with both its tight scripts and the starring talents of Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, As Time Goes By is a fine example. Their two characters: Jean and Lionel, fell in love during the early 1950s, but when army officer Lionel was sent to Korea they lost touch after a letter he sent her never arrived. Both assumed the other had lost interest, but 38 years later their paths cross again, when Lionel returns to England to write his memoirs of life in the army and as a coffee-planter in Kenya (imaginatively titled 'My Life in Kenya'). Seeking an agency temp to handle the typing, he is sent a young secretary in the form of Judith Pargetter and after hitting it off they agree to meet for dinner. That evening, though, Lionel also chances upon meeting her mother and his long-lost sweetheart: Jean. But could their love be rekindled after so long? Across nine series, audiences followed their complicated relationships as other admirers vied for Jean and Lionel's affections (including double-divorcee Judith's crush on Lionel, and his smooth agent Alistair's fondness for Jean). Eventually, though, Judith and Alistair fall in love and the path is cleared for Lionel and Jean to get back together and marry, although their strong characters and colourful past ensured there was always something for them to fret about and for viewers to laugh at. Although its gentle brand of middle-class humour wasn't a cross-generational hit, "As Time Goes By" maintained a strong popularity and even occasionally contained edgier storylines that belied its twee image.
- Yes Minister: A bedrock programme in the UK comedy structure, Yes Minister embodied the early 1980s attitude to authority and politics as a gently hypocritical world filled with doubletalk. The series follows Right Honorable James Hacker MP, Minister for Administrative Affairs, and his attempts to make officialdom and administration make sense. He does this whilst pushing his own self-serving agenda, and keeping his head above any nasty political waters. Throughout his career, he's up against Whitehall’s Sir Humphrey Appleby, unflappable symbol of a machine that has no gears, only brakes. Jim's policies, whether cutting costs or trying to streamline red tape, are sabotaged by Appleby's Machiavellian skills, often accompanied by brain-wrenching sentences designed to confuse Hacker - and often succeeding. Absolutely snobbish and elitist, yet blind to anything that does not serve the Whitehall way, Sir Humphrey is the avatar of the British State. Hacker's politics appear to be completely pragmatic and blown by the winds of chance, and are never dogmatic enough to be clearly labelled Labour or Conservative. By removing the trappings of a particular 'party' and allowing both sides to appear at their worst - venal and inconstant Hacker forever opposing the pompous and manipulative Appleby - "Yes, Minister" maintained a timeless quality that means it has endured beyond the Thatcherite politics it satirised. A true original, the show remains one of the most influential sitcoms of its time.
- Three Men in a Boat: Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published in 1889, is a humorous account by Jerome K. Jerome of a boating holiday of three friends--the narrator (Jerome), Harris, and George--on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. The book was intended initially to be a serious travel guide, but the humorous elements eventually took over, to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages now seem like an unnecessary distraction to the essentially comic novel. It is amazing how undated it appears to modern readers, as the jokes seem fresh and witty even today. My favorite stories include Ch. 3's Uncle Podger, Ch. 4's Liverpool cheeses, Ch. 6's Hampton Court maze, and Ch. 8's Herr Slossenn Boschen. This sounds nerdy, but if you read it aloud amongst friends/family who won't make fun of you for the rest of eternity, it makes for a great kick-in-the-pants time. Yeah.
So there you are. A few to get started on; once you've seen one, you'll be hooked. Happy browsing!
Monday, June 2, 2008
But I digress…
Being that we, my sister and I, are fans of Jane Austen and her literary masterpiece “Pride and Prejudice,” we naturally were tickled by our discovery of this group and were even more amused to find that there were more than 11,000 members of this group. That is right, Gentle Readers, 11,000 members. To be exact, 11,912 members. But that is not entirely the point that I am trying to make. As these few days have passed since my first seeing the group and its description:
“Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley…the embodiment of all that is manly, chivalrous, and right in the world - I know that I can never go back. I can never settle. I will wait for a man that I can bewitch - body and soul - and I refuse to settle for anything less than my own personal Mr. Darcy”
I have not been able to help myself from wondering at the existence of this group and what it means for the greater society of women being represented by this group. Do all of these member-women desire a life partner who is Darcy-esque in the sense of the Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen (the two most popular and swooned-over motion picture portrayers of Mr. Darcy)? Or do these women hope that the Mr. Darcy of the pages of “Pride and Prejudice” will materialize on their front door step? Or is it something else?
My dwelling upon this stems from my having recently finished reading Sarah Emsley’s “Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues.” In her book, Emsley examines Austen’s use of literature, particularly character development, as an exploration of the traditional (theological and cardinal) virtues (charity, patience, hope, fortitude, justice, to name a few). While Austen’s novels are often stories of tested love that ends in a happily-ever-after for its heroine, Emsley argues that Austen’s works can be counted as members in the larger project of philosophical exploration of the virtues and the development and practice thereof. [Such a thesis might ring familiar to some Rover writers and readers as it comes almost directly from the pages of Notre Dame’s own Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue”, where MacIntyre names Austen the last great follower of virtue ethics, and indeed Emsley does credit MacIntyre and his study of moral theory in “After Virtue” as the basis for her own examination of Austen’s virtue ethics.]
To avoid boring you too much with the details of Emsley’s book, I will cut to the chase of my critique of the aforementioned Facebook group but in light of my having read Emsley. I think it is necessary to state that as much as women-fans would like to think of him as “the embodiment of all that is manly, chivalrous, and right in the world,” Mr. Darcy is a flawed character. I mean, hello? Austen’s title of “Pride and Prejudice” is just as descriptive of Darcy as it is of the novel’s heroine, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. However, what makes Darcy such an admirable and desireable literary character is his earnest pursuit of virtuous reform following Elizabeth Bennet’s chastising refusal of his marriage proposal so that he might become more well rounded in possession of the virtues and thus worthy of her love. In this sense, Darcy should be the sought after ideal and it is good that the 11,912 women recognize it: a woman ought not to settle for a man who is not dedicated to pursuit of the virtues, the true, the good and the beautiful. Woman should not hope for the fairy tale romance froufrou, but rather the virtuousness Mr. Darcy represents. I only hope that the 11,912 and more women who yearn for their Mr. Darcy recognize this as well.
That women should expect men to be virtuous and upright is true, however the road runs two ways. Women cannot settle for their own mediocrity, either. Women too must seek to be virtuous so that we can deserve to “bewitch body and soul” our Darcy. Such an opinion must also have been held by Ms. Austen herself as she portrayed Elizabeth Bennet, who would be Darcy’s wife, as needing her own fair-share of betterment in virtue. Indeed, at the end of “Pride and Prejudice”, Austen describes the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth a “marriage of equals” because each partner would both challenge and support the other in continued personal, moral and virtuous development, as well as other life pursuits.
[[Being that I am also a big fan of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”, I will put in a plug for this magnificent work here. While I won’t say much out of fear of being repetitive and too long-winded, I will say that much of my present opining regarding man and woman’s pursuit of virtue is also, and more eloquently and instructively discussed in this collection of papal audiences.]]
So, in conclusion, I do not seek by way of this blog post to disparage the members of Facebook’s group “I refuse to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy” nor the group itself. Rather, I just want to put another point of view out there for the consideration of anyone who ever hoped for Mr. Right, a Knight in Shining Armour (or Reynold's Wrap), or Mr. Darcy.
 Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”.
 Sarah Emsley, “Jane Austen’s Philosophy of the Virtues”.
 Alasdair MacIntyre, “After Virtue: A Study of Moral Theory”.
 John Paul II, “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body”