Friday, September 24, 2010

First meal in new place

Last night we cooked for the first time in our new place.  On the walk home from picking Basil Wenceslas up after kindergarten we stopped at a locally famous Italian deli and bought some of their sausages.  Once home they were cooked in a pan, sliced into bite sized pieces, and added to a tomato sauce.  It was served over a plate vermiglioni.  Very yummy.

This same deli does amazing business on Christmas morning.  The line of people waiting to pick up ravioli is out the door and down the block.  It must be fun to have a ravioli breakfast Christmas tradition.  I guess that is one advantage to going to Communion just after midnight instead of later in the morning.  But it doesn't outweigh the disadvantage of trying to be in church at midnight with small children.  Given that reality, I think I can live without ravioli on Christmas morning.

In other Christmas related news, Anselm Samuel's Cub Scout Pack has begun its annual Christmas wreath fundraiser.  I know, its hard to believe they are selling wreaths in September, but the orders have to be in by the end of October for the wreaths to be made and delivered in the first week of December. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moved but not yet unpacked

Our move was accomplished.  Most of our stuff has been unpacked.  In the unpacking I found my Mother's recipe for chile verde.

2 or more cups boiling water
1 lb. round steak cubed
1 Tbl spon flour
2 Tbl  oil
1 sm. onion chopped
6-8 green chiles chopped
1 clove carlic chopped
1 t spoon salt
1/8 t spoon pepper
1 small can tomatoes

Sprinkle steak with flouer and brown steak and onions in oil.
Add chiles, garlic & water & seasonings (salt & pepper).
After simmering 1 hr. add tomatoes & more water, if needed.
Serve over steamed rice.
(You may want to double this.)"

The only time I cooked this - at a competition 10 or 11 years ago - I did double the recipe, except for the chiles.  I don't remember what kind of chiles my mother used.  I used jalapeƱos but thought they might be too hot for some of the people judging the competition.  Also,  I added 1/2 pound of quartered tomatillos when I added the chiles.   Instead of rice, I served with flour tortillas.

Now, I just wish I could find my Mother's recipes for pinapple fritters and twice-cooked ginger pork.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Congratulations to all Christians on this Bright and Glorious Day!

From the Website of the Orthodox Church in America

The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Changes

On Friday last my boss came by so we could talk about replacing the dryers (They have had a lot of repairs, recently.) and so I could show him the fence I think needs to be replaced.  As we were walking back to his car he said, "Matt, we're going to be making some changes here.  This is your termination letter." I was totally surprised.  When an apartment manager loses a job he also loses a place to live.  We have been packing and apartment hunting since Friday afternoon. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Lately, Athanasia and I have suffered disagreement over the homeschooling of our son Anselm Samuel.  She is someone who likes structured programs.  So she signed our son up for a California at-home charter school called K12.  It is an amazing program.  A computer, a scanner, a printer, and dozens of books arrived in the mail.  There are lesson plans, and websites, and a teacher who stays in touch.  It is exactly the kind of program my wife loves.

I am someone who does not like structured programs.  I especially dislike a teacher who stays in touch. I always think I am right.  I don't like being told what I have to teach my children because I already know what I want them to know.  I have signed Anselm Samuel up for a program of workbook-based courses in math, English, social studies, and science from a company called ACE.  My mother used ACE for my high school education.  My plan was to use ACE workbooks, but really only insist he do the math and English, and augment that with art, science, and dance classes offered through various organizations in the city, Church, and the Cub Scouts.  This plan is very worrisome to my wife.  She thinks our son won't learn anything. She has no confidence in the ACE work books.  She is very very upset about it.

I am very much not worried about our son's education.  He's bright and curious and will, I think, learn the things he wants to know.  Really, I don't even believe in what people call elementary education, except for reading and writing.   But my wife sees his education as something existential. Her entire life is oriented to her children.  It is why she is so up-set with my semi-laissez-faire attitude. 

I am beginning to think this is because she is a mother.  My own mother was like this.  I was a year ahead in my schooling but my mother would get very upset if she saw me doing something other than school work during the day.  I remember one time she saw me reading a non-school related book and she yelled at me, shaking a wooden spoon at me, "You are not going to be 25 years old and still in high school!"  I graduated from high school 2 months after turning 17.

What I am certain of is Athanasia and I can not both be responsible for homeschooling. I am also certain that my wife will not leave me alone and let me do it the way I want to do it.  So, I am looking for a different job, one that pays as much as my wife earns at Stanford.  This will let her quit Stanford in order to manage the apartments and also be "The careful Mother Inftructing her children."

Looking for a new job won't be easy.  All I've done for the past few years is manage apartments.  I don't even have the clothes needed to get back into advertising.  And I think I am probably too old for it now.  Everyone in advertising is under 35.    I am not looking forward to this job search but I am looking forward to an absence of conflict.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Happy Feast Day!

Homily on the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God

by Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete

The present feastday is for us the beginning of feastdays. Serving as a boundary limit to the law and to foretypes, it at the same time serves as a doorway to grace and truth. "For Christ is the end of the law" (Rom 10:4), Who, having freed us from the writing, doth raise us to spirit. Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, hath changed the writing in spirit and doth head everything within Himself (Eph 1:10), hath taken the law under its dominion, and the law is become subjected to grace, such that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only suchlike, that the servile and subservient (in the law) by Divine power be transmuted into the light and free (in grace), "so that we," sayeth the Apostle, "be not enslaved to the elements of the world" (Gal 4:3) and be not in a condition under the slaveish yoke of the writing of the law. Here is the summit of Christ's beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinisation] assumed upon humankind -- the fruition worked out by the God-man.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Down by the Riverside

About 12 or 13 years ago I saw three homeless guys at the Montgomery BART station singing this song.  They didn't have a tenor so I stepped up and sang those high notes.  Here is a version I just recently heard.  It becomes a rap and expands on the theme, ending with an excellent statement of the Theology of Baptism.  And this guy can rap almost as fast as the Bob Parent, the choir director at Holy Trinity Cathedral can chant the Trisagion Prayers.

This Is Why I Listen to Diana Krall

"Popular music has never been so unpopular. The top three songs in America right now are (3) Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," (2) Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," and (1) Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie." Have you heard any of them? If you haven't, it's not because you live in a cave. It's because allegedly popular music now plays in caves sealed off from the rest of us. Pop music caters to a niche market of especially superficial suburban teens, urban denizens, and club-goers stuck in extended adolescence. Everybody else is pretty much left out, which explains the market void."
Read the whole thing here.  Or, just listen to Diana Krall.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Beautiful Letter

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.  

Icon on a Magazine Cover

Dear Tikkun,

I am an an Orthodox Christian.  I, somtimes, pray standing before an Icon of Ss. Perpetua and Felicitas.  I love them, together with the other Holy Martyrs who suffered together with them, Ss. Revocatus, Saturus, and Saturninus .  And when I first saw them on the cover of your magazine my first instinct was to Cross myself and kiss the cover.  Then I read the words printed on the cover.  I am sad you dessecrated their Holy Icon by using it to promote the evil of homosexual behavior.  It is hard for me to believe you would slander these two women like you did. Both Saints Perpetua and Felicitas were married women, the former a mother, the latter was 8 months pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth two days before whe was killed in the amphitheater.  The Icon you desecrated was not, as you implied by the words you printed on the cover, a depiction of a homosexual embrace.  Rather it shows that last act of the women, a liturgical act all Orthodox Christians are familiar with, the Kiss of Peace.  Yet, now, all who are uneducated who see the cover of your magazine will think these two were homosexuals.  Did they not sufer enough from the torturers and the wild animals that were set on them before their execution?  How dastardly of you.  But I am not writing to you to express outrage.  Instead, I am extending an invitation.  God forgives slanderers.  He even forgives those who cause others to fall by saying what is wrong is right. If you repent God will have mercy on you.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Oh Holy Images

My youngest son made a Cross out of baloons.  He brought it to me for veneration.  I kissed it.  He said,"Now it's a Cross but when I take it apart it's just baloons!"  Hmmmm. I don't think he's been reading St. John Damascene.   

Friday, September 03, 2010

The President's Favorite Philosopher

Do you remember when Geo. W. Bush was asked who his favorite philosopher was and he answered, "Jesus Christ"? I thought that was a pretty dumb answer.  Jesus is the the only true object of philosophy.  He is the Logos, the Giest, the All-Soul, the One, the Prime Mover the philosophers only had a vague idea about.  He is the one who holds all power and authority in Heaven and on earth.  He is an imperious King who accepts no rivals, who is busy battering down even the gates of Hell in order to expand his dominion.  He does not share space with Plato, Aquinas, Hume, or Kant.  He is the only wisdom the wise pursue.  In short, Jesus is the -sophy one must philo-.  So, it was pure dumbth that Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher.  Sure, there was a political reason he said it, and it paid off.  Nevertheless it was wrong.

I much preferred what Obama said about his favorite philosopher.  In the New York Times he said,"Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr? I love him. He's one of my favorite philosophers".  Aside from the fact that this is the kind of thing you'd expect an undergrad liberal arts major to say, we can learn quite a bit about the President from Niebuhr.   Probably the most important thing is that symbol - not the Greek understanding of symbol, e.g. two to or more things being merged so that experiencing one is the same as experiencing all - is more important than reality.  For instance, Niebuhr denied the physical resurrection of Jesus, writing in 1938,"I have not the slightest interest in the empty tomb or physical resurrection." Yet claimed it as a an important symbol for people's moral action to make the world a better place.  The Resurrection of Jesus isn't for the salvation of individual men.  Rather, it is a symbol that gives people enough hope - and all he means by symbol in this context is mythical ideas that motivate people -  to take public action.

But what about evil?  What about the sin that corrupts every heart?  If Jesus does not heal us what is to be done?  How can I live if Jesus did not trample down death?  What hope do I have if, as Niebuhr says, "Evil is not to be traced back to the individual but to the collective behavior of humanity."    The "world" is certainly loved by God, but I and you are the individual "whosoever" in needs Jesus.  For someone who denies the resurrection of Jesus, as Niebuhr did, who claims there is no such thing as immortal individuals this idea that salvation is really political action on the part of groups of people is probably the best answer possible.  

But the Church teaches that we are immortal individuals.  We are, each one of us, made in the image and likeness of God, and that we do, each one of us, live for ever.  Job said that though he die he, not some collective intellect, not a group of people making political actions, but Job himself would see his redeemer.

But Niebuhr, lake the serpent in the Garden, was partly right. There is a collective element to evil.  We see this in the Icon of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)  The children ("and a little child shall lead them") in the icon are all distinct persons.  But the adults, the same people who later in the week would cry out, "crucify him" are merged into one mass.  Their hearts were not pure, even as they shouted "Hosanna", thus they are depicted as merely parts of a group.  The sinful can not relate to Jesus as individuals, only as a mob.   

Sin is like that.  It is all the same.  It is truly infinitely less than the variety God offers because it shuns His infinitude in favor or repetitive sin.  Sin is repetitive and boring and constraining.  Consider the man who can only see women as potential sex partners.  How many amazing people has he ignored because they were too old, or too young, or too skinny, or too fat.  Even those women he notices he regards very narrowly, the most important thing about them is that he can have sex with them.  Compared to that fact, all other aspects of their persons, no mater how wonderful, pale in the mind of the man who regards their sex as their most important feature.  How boring!  How repetitive!  How horrible!  This man has closed himself off from the revelation of Himself God has built into every individual human being. Individuals matter not to him.  They didn't matter to Niebuhr.  But when Orthodox Christians approach the chalice for Holy Communion we are called by our names: "The servant of God Matthew receives...."  Truly, we approach God as part of a community, but it is a community composed of individuals.

Niebuhr embraces the denial of individuals.  His belief in some sort of non-personal collective salvation went hand in hand with his recognition that coercive force has to be employed to fight evil within large groups of people.  That "social justice" requires the strong hand of government is not a problem because the individuals being coerced are not as important as the group.  Because individuals don't last, are not immortal, it is okay to force them to do whatever is necessary for the good of the group, which does last.  Or, as Rudyard Kippling wrote in his famous poem, plenty for all is achieved "by robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul".  In this we can see why Niebuhr would be Obama's favorite philosopher.  


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Why do they have problem with our national colors?

Do you remember the 1988 Democratic convention?  I do.  But the only part I remember, other than the fact that they let certain high ranking officials called "super delegates" vote, and that really mean speech by Anne Richards, is that when they built the podium they didn't make it red white an blue.  Instead, they chose muted shades of our national colors: Salmon, eggshell, and azure.

Now President Obama has changed the colors of the Presidential Seal on the oval office rug.  Though most presidents who've had the Seal on their rugs (Johnson was the first to put the Seal on the rug)  kept the colors the same as they always have been, Reagan was the first to change it.  In keeping with his vision of American greatness, and, perhaps related to the "Morning in America" theme he merged the seal with a blazing sun.  Pres. G.H.W. Bush went back to the traditional colors for the seal. Pres. Clinton kept the original colors. Pres. Geo.W. Bush kept the traditional seal but had rays of gold emanating from the seal, perhaps in remembering Pres. Reagan's rug.  But now, as is his right - it is his Seal, at least,  for a couple of more years -  President Obama has changed it to something the 1988 San Francisco Democrats would have loved.  New York Magazine calls it "a less optimistic rug".  I think they are right about that.  A lack of optimism might be part of the explanation, but I think there is more to it than that.  I think they dislike red white and blue, and other symbols of America because they dislike America. Our flag of red white and blue is the flag of the land where they live, but, I don't think, many of them would claim it is "the emblem of the land I love."

I really like my son Basil's Kindergarten teacher.  Each few days she teaches them a new song.  Basil comes home and says: "Daddy listen to my song my teacher taught me."  The songs so far have been "This Land is Your Land", "God Bless America", "Yankee Doodle", "My Country, 'tis of Thee", and "Your a Grand Old Flag".  Each time I've joined in the song with him and each time he was amazed that I already knew the words.  Yesterday, when he came home singing "Your a Grand Old Flag" I said, "Hey, I have something I want you to see".  And I played this video for him.  I wish president Obama and his followers would learn from it why the colors are red, white, and blue instead of salmon, eggshell, and azure.