Nuts About Freedom

My house smells like tomcat. I don’t mean tomcat spray. Rusty, the stray orange tabby who began using my place as a flophouse last summer, pulled that trick exactly twice. Both times, thank God, he chose to mark the imitation hardwood floors of my kitchenette, and not the champagne-carpeted floors of my bedroom. No steam [Read More...]

The $*(#$ing Power of Vulgarity

I don’t have my copy of Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night on my lap. A few years ago, I loaned it to someone who took it with her when she drifted out of my life. But among the sections that have stuck in my head, more or less intact, is one where Mailer digresses [Read More...]

Green Eggs and Ambo

In the film adaptation of Herman Wouk’s World War Two novel, The Caine Mutiny, there’s a scene where three officers of a high-functioning but very messy minesweeper report aboard Admiral Halsey’s flagship. Their mission is to denounce their Captain Queeg as an incompetent paranoiac. But as soon as they reach the admiral’s hatch, the theme [Read More...]

Next Stop: Trent?

This Sunday, I’m attending a Latin Mass. There, it’s decided. I could hardly call myself a flâneur of Catholic culture otherwise. Never having taken a knee at the Porziuncola or the Holy Sepulchre, never having set so much as a single toe on the Camino — all these omissions, I think, are forgivable, given budgetary [Read More...]

Praying for Jennifer Fulwiler and Breaking the Gadget

Readers: When I wrote this piece, all the news I’d received on Jennifer Fulwiler’s condition had been encouraging. For that reason, I gave myself leave to take a detour from the ongoing drama of her illness to broader questions of how social media affect the way people interact. However, since then, I’ve learned she’s taken [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Finale

With the death-smell filling his nostrils, and Acantha’s heartsick whine still filling his ears, Melampus found it urgent to distract himself. Now that the strange aroma had withdrawn to the very limits of his tracking powers, he discovered he was able, for the first time, to puzzle over its source. Oils, incense, and milk: do [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Part Two (of Three)

“Slow and steady wins the race,” Aesop wrote. So often had Melampus heard the words quoted in reference to himself that he’d adopted them as his personal motto. In the first weeks of his journey, he seemed, once again, to be proving the wisdom behind them. The delightful bouquet beckoned due south; after a night [Read More...]

Melampus, the Nativity Basset Hound: Part One

Historians trace the basset hound back to the pack raised by St. Hubert of Liège, who was an avid huntsman. But even forefathers have forefathers. If you’re willing to put your trust in folklore, then the breed’s remotest ancestor — what Wotan was to the Germanic tribes and Oghuz Khan to the Turks — was [Read More...]

The Hidden Drama of Prayer

Yoking modern technology and oogedy-boogedy devotional practice, the website for the santuario in Nettuno, Italy, invites visitors to e-mail requests for intercession addressed to St. Maria Goretti. Every day, whoever’s in charge prints out the requests and stacks them in a corner of the urn where the saint’s wax-covered bones are on display. Whether the [Read More...]

A Plea for Responsible Gun Non-Ownership

“We can’t tolerate this anymore” has got to rank among the scariest expressions in the English language. As President Obama made this promise to the nation, he pledged to support a reinstatement of the assault-weapon ban. White House press secretary Jay Carney has said there are “other elements” of gun legislation, including a ban on [Read More...]

Can A Mass Murder Mean A Church-World Truce?

Only something unthinkably bad could make Slate and National Catholic Register cover the same story in the same tone, featuring the very same image. It may be time to start thinking, ’cause that thing has happened. Now that a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has claimed 27 lives, 20 of them belonging to [Read More...]

Murder, We Posted

I was out when news of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School first hit the online media. When I got home, I made some effort to catch up, but quit after about 20 minutes. It just seemed pointless. There’s a depressing sameness to these shootings. The shooter’s almost always a boy in his [Read More...]

“We” Ennui and the “I” Revolution

For all I know, Catholic social critics would do away with adolescence and young adulthood altogether. You know, keep it simple — when kids turn 12, pack the boys off to sea as powder monkeys and marry the girls off to moneylenders or estate bailiffs with wattles and gout. But, as of this writing, the [Read More...]

Ship of No Fools

To the guard patrolling the big parking lot at Tempe Marketplace on the night before Thanksgiving, I must have seemed less Rosa Parks than Ignatius J. Reilly. When he spotted me from his golf cart at the beginning of his circuit, I was sitting on the bench outside Pier One Imports; by the time he [Read More...]

Skype: the Open Confessional

The Pope’s on Twitter. The secular press is running profiles of Catholic bloggers. It’s starting to look like the new media have been baptized, confirmed, and maybe even canonized. (Isidore of Seville serves as patron saint of the Internet, at least while Elizabeth Scalia’s above ground.) Before all this aggiornamento gives the Church a bad [Read More...]

Avoiding the Advent Trap

The worst thing about being robbed by crystal meth addicts is having to walk them through the robbery. They’re jumpy and scatterbrained, tweakers are. You’ve got to talk to them as you’d talk to five-year-olds. Unless you explain, “Here’s my WALLET. Here’s my CELL PHONE. Here’s this OTHER CELL PHONE that hasn’t worked since I [Read More...]


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