Long-Term Questions

You may reasonably wonder:

What are the long-term intellectual projects underway behind the scenes at this weblog?

Indeed, two avenues of research occupy my mind. They will be addressed, dear reader, in good time. Please be patient with me.

1. Is it indeed true, as Mark Twain asserted, that Sir Walter Scott bears primary responsibility for the American Civil War?

2. Is not “Othello” perhaps Sheakespeare’s greatest?

Question #1 poses many convoluted problems. First of all, Mark Twain basically spent the Civil War in Hawaii. So: Can he really be regarded as an authority?

Secondly, Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” while enormously appealing as possible bed-time reading, requires seven years of uninterrupted leisure actually to read from cover to cover. Only the gentry of the Old South would have had a chance to read it all.

But I will get to the bottom of this question somehow, I promise.

Question #2 raises other questions…

1. Must not Verdi’s “Otello” be regarded as an altogether different story, since the opera does not include the crucial opening sequence of events in Shakespeare’s play, namely Othello and Desdemona’s elopement?

2. Does Ian McKellen “own” Iago on film?

In 1990, he played Iago as a fussy neat-freak, twitchy and (just a little too) grabby in his fidgets. Watching him truly does make a man’s blood run cold.

I have to admit that I have no great brief for McKellen. His Gandalf does nothing for me. He mumbles too much, and when he comes back as Gandalf the White, he looks like a cross between Wilfred Brimley and Fabio.

But I think the man does indeed own Iago in the movies. At least he owns the 1989 Othello movie, leaving plenty of altogether worthy co-stars in the dust.

Ian McKellen Iago



Leave it to LeBron to talk like he has a ring on his finger, when, in fact, the Heat must still face two teams from Central Time. May the the MVP and Co. stuff King James in a four-game sweep. Then LeBron can sit and watch the Finals with Kobe and their respective hand-puppets…

…Our Holy Father started a new series of catecheses on prayer last Wednesday, and continued it the day before yesterday. Don’t miss.

Here is a good part–about the universality of prayer throughout history, and of kneeling in prayer:

“Digital” man and the caveman alike seek in religious experience the ways to overcome his finitude and to ensure his precarious earthly adventure…In the dynamic of this relationship with the One who gives meaning to existence, with God, prayer has one of its typical expressions in the gesture of kneeling…The posture of kneeling at prayer expresses this acknowledgment of our need and our openness to God’s gift of himself in a mysterious encounter of friendship.

…Thirty years ago today, somebody shot the blessed pope.

Ten years ago, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick laid hands on a tall, kneeling goofball, after the goofball promised to serve the holy altar for life. Happy Friday the 13th!

…If a Jesuit named Conroy has to be the chaplain of the US Congress, I wish it could have been Father Jim Conroy.

…How about if we discuss A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain?

Continue reading “Superstitious?”

Prov’dence don’t fire no blank ca’tridges, boys.

Speaking of sleeping in a casket: How about spending the next seven minutes of your life reading chapter LIII of Mark Twain’s Roughing It?

Click HERE.

Reminds me of the time when Grandpa Simpson told this yarn to Mr. Burns:

Like the time I took the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you’d say. Now where were we… The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.

Chapter LIII of Twain’s Innocents Abroad also fascinates. He recounts his visit to Jerusalem. To my mind imprudently, he dismisses the authenticity of most of the sites to which he and his fellow pilgrims were conducted.

But he eloquently and adamantly defends the accuracy of the location of the chapel of the crucifixion in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.