Review: One giant leap for mankind
Review: One giant leap for mankind “We choose to go to the moon…” Even after 57 years, those words that President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University in Houston, Tex., extolling the benefits of space exploration, still excite the imagination and provoke wonder at the audacity of it all. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of that historic moment when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Sea of Tranquility and spoke the immortal words that were etched into the memories of everyone who watched television on that July evening in 1969. The culmination of President Kennedy’s vision, the lunar landing (which he sadly did not live to witness) was the seminal event of a decade that began with promise and ended with sorrow, including assassinations, wars and social upheaval. American Moonshot is Douglas Brinkley’s exciting narrative of how it all came to pass. Advertisement As Brinkley recounts, he was just an 8-year-old in Ohio when his fellow Ohioan, Neil Armstrong, made his “giant leap.” The Saturn V era fascinated many of Brinkley’s generation (myself included—it happened one day before my eighth birthday, and it was a “present” I have never forgotten). That feat was essentially an American one, for it embodied that quintessential characteristic that is ingrained in our psyche and that we invested in the astronauts: the thrill of adventure. J.F.K. put his finger on it when he said that it would take the skills and talents of all Americans to put them “there,” on the moon—for it was the work of us all. J.F.K. put his finger on it when he said that it would take the skills and talents of all Americans to put them “there,” on the moon—for it was the work of us all. From the start, Brinkley posits that Moonshot is actually the story of Kennedy’s own space race and the space race’s influence on Kennedy’s vision. It is ironic that J.F.K. is so closely linked to Apollo history, given that early on, he was something of a “space skeptic”; like many others, he wondered if the resources could have been put to better use in other fields. He slowly came to realize, though, that the space program could have unforeseen positive consequences, economically, scientifically, socially—and politically, given the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. It appealed to Kennedy’s idealistic, historical and, frankly, romantic nature, because it was a challenge to be met, one that could be used for the benefit of mankind and for peace. Applying the nautical images he so loved, he viewed it as a “new sea” on which to set sail. Douglas Brinkley’s fascination with this subject shows on every page. Part biography, part history, it is all pure adventure, something we need to be reminded of in a time when the “can do” spirit in our country and world is sorely lacking and much needed. keane Tue, 06/25/2019 - 14:41 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
Review: A photo exploration of our nation’s deep divides
Review: A photo exploration of our nation’s deep divides Growing inequality continues to batter our politics. The lack of concern on the part of U.S. elites for how the rest of the country lives has fueled populist anger and, in 2016, the surprising presidential election victory of Donald J. Trump. And all that might be just the beginning: The rising tide of automation, globalization and privatization threaten to keep the lower classes in the United States out of work, making them (angry) wards of the wealthy and the state. Advertisement What can be done about this deep divide between majesty and mud? One good starting point is reporting about and earnest engagement with the lives of people in crumbling cities like Baltimore, Detroit and Milwaukee and rusting towns like Youngstown, Flint and Birmingham. Two generations ago, these places were prosperous. Then markets shifted and labor costs increased. Capitalist economics prevailed, and jobs went to places where wages were cheaper. Communities crumbled. Poverty followed, with all its ugly symptoms: missing teeth, drug addiction, potholes, rotting porches. One of the latest entries in the genre of exploring American poverty is Dignity, by Chris Arnade, a 284-page tome that blends coffee-table book photography, reportage and memoir. Arnade sketches the story of how he went to work as a bond trader for Citibank in New York City, making tons of money and living comfortably in Brooklyn. It was not enough. In the wake of the financial crisis, a spirit of earnest curiosity seized him, and he started going for long walks in the poorer parts of the Bronx. He saw, he writes, “just how cloistered and privileged my world was and how narrow and selfish I was.” He talked to residents, making friends with a prostitute and other people struggling on the margins of society, and started writing and taking pictures. Dignity is a 284-page tome that blends coffee-table book photography, reportage and memoir. A year after beginning his pilgrimage, Arnade was asked to leave his lucrative job. He didn’t fight it. After almost two decades on top of the pyramid, he was bored. With money banked, he widened his explorations. He drove around the country, putting 150,000 miles on his car. He visited both poor black neighborhoods—like Buffalo’s East Side, Selma, Ala., and Milwaukee’s North Side—and impoverished white areas—like Prestonsburg, Ky., Bristol, Tenn., and the Ozarks. What they had in common, he writes, “was that all were poor and rarely considered or talked about beyond being a place of problems.” Arnade's photographs live up to the promise of his book’s title. They are vivid portraits of people doing ordinary things: praying in churches and mosques, gazing at the stars through a telescope, taking care of pigeons, running bingo games, hanging laundry, doing backflips in the street, drinking a beer at a ballgame, cheering on a car race. In other words: You can be poor and have a life you love. And, yes, dignity. The prose, on the other hand, is more uneven, meandering, thin on deep analysis and rich in anecdote, with some insights worth pondering. Arnade is obsessed with the social and geographical role played by McDonald’s restaurants, devoting an entire chapter to them. As he correctly notes, the chain offers (in every hamlet) a de facto town square, in many places “one of the few places open to the public that worked.” McDonald’s is where people go to take advantage of free internet, gossip, pray the Bible, get warm or cool, go on a date, meet with their drug counselor or get tutored in a foreign language. McDonald’s, Chris Arnade writes, is where people go to take advantage of free internet, gossip, pray the Bible, get warm or cool, go on a date, meet with their drug counselor or get tutored in a foreign language. One particularly damaging element of American poverty is isolation in so-called food deserts, Arnade shows. In Cairo, Ill., you shop at “two Dollar Generals and two small convenience stores selling a selection of milk, snacks, lotto tickets, frozen pizza, liquor, beer, blunts and vape supplies.” A vexing problem in these areas is whether to leave for personal opportunity, an accepted principle of middle- and upper-class life. Arnade himself left a small town to find fortune. But now he admires people who stay because of their “connections, networks, family, congregations, the Little League team, the usuals at the hairdresser, regulars at the bar, the union hall, the crew at the vape store, the regulars at the half-price movie night, the guys for Tuesday night basketball.” There is grace in Arnade’s subtle meditations on faith. Not a believer, he finds himself drawn to the spiritual strength and resiliency of people who suffer and own nothing. The fact that he does not quote Jesus’ explicit directive that the kingdom belongs to the poor gives power to the contemplation. “The tragedy of the streets means few can delude themselves into thinking they have it under control,” he writes. “You cannot ignore death there, and you cannot ignore human fallibility. It is easier to see that everyone is a sinner, everyone is fallible, and everyone is mortal.” It is as if God’s presence is so palpable that it doesn’t need to be preached. This caring book is in the line of a long tradition of writers left their lives of comfort to study squalor and decline, including Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives (1890), James Agee and Walker Evans’s Now Let Us Praise Famous Men (1941), Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001), George Packer’s The Great Unwinding (2014), and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2017). There is also, of course, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy (2016), a rags-to-riches memoir about growing up in a small town in Ohio. In Appalachia, where I live, that book has been criticized for its unabashed patriotism and faith in American meritocracy and for its focus on a particular brand of white culture. It even inspired a literary counterattack, Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy’, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll (2019).  "There is not a single ‘truth’ about Appalachia and its people,” Harkins and McCarroll write in the introduction to the book, an anthology of essays, poems and photographs. They are right, of course. Arnade’s work, on the other hand, does well in reflecting the racial, cultural and religious diversity of America’s poorer regions.    One painful, unanswered question, though, cries out from the pictures and prose of Dignity and a lot of these other books: What should we do? It is one thing to meet your neighbor where she is, without judgment. Shouldn’t we help her, too? Chris Arnade admits he doesn’t know the solution. “We all need to listen to each other more,” is all he can muster in conclusion. Fair enough. I am not sure I can do much better. When I reached Arnade for an interview, he was in Buenos Aires, recovering from what he described as burnout from his burnout. The work he had been doing to document poverty had drained him, he told me. Encountering the other is hard, uncomfortable work. “I was a vegetarian atheist, and I just spent three years eating at McDonald’s and going to church,” he mused. (Two years ago, without good vegetarian options in the places he was traveling, Arnade started eating meat.) "I don’t have any answers,” he said. “I don’t really have any hope that things will get better” in the United States. The work, though, had changed him. He could no longer look at the world the same way. “I’ve become less of a capitalist,” he said. keane Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:17 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
‘Toy Story 4’ is fun, warm (and slightly dark) nostalgia
‘Toy Story 4’ is fun, warm (and slightly dark) nostalgia osegura Fri, 06/21/2019 - 15:50 Advertisement
‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’: A new way to look at gentrification
‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’: A new way to look at gentrification cfreeman Thu, 06/20/2019 - 16:56 Advertisement
Men in Black: International – Coffee and Cinema
Men in Black: International is the fourth installment in the MIB franchise. Dom Bettinelli and Fr. Chip Hines are fresh out of the theater to give you their spoiler-free first impressions followed by a discussion that includes spoilers, including whether it's a worthy MIB sequel and which character steals the show. The post Men in Black: International – Coffee and Cinema appeared first on
America’s Summer Reading Guide
America’s Summer Reading Guide vcabrera Wed, 06/19/2019 - 16:12 Advertisement
Rebuilding the shattered fanes
Picking up the Shards by Donal Murray (Veritas, €12.99 / £11.52) The author begins with a story about Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago. Before he died, in a conversation with some of his priests he said: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” But he concluded: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilisation as the Church has done so often in human history.” There are many examples in history of the Church having this role. Perhaps one of the most remarkable was the manner in which Irish missionaries contributed to the restoration of civilisation in Europe following the devastation wrought on the Roman empire by the Barbarians. In our time Murray suggests that the Church should and could set about working to restore a more equitable, fairer and more just society, which, since it has been secularised, has been detached from Gospel values. The need to do so is blindingly obvious. The political elite by their efforts – some intentional, some unintentional – have transformed Christian Europe into a mega-secular region. It is a polity characterised by post-truth, fake news, fake opinions, PR presentations, alternative truths and a pernicious relativism. Objective demonstrable truth takes second place to personal feelings and convictions. Discussion in the public forum is conducted not by rational argument but by emotional manipulation. The result is the development of a legal system which embraces John Stuart Mills’ Utilitarianism and veers further and further away from moral principles. In a society formed by such a legal system the disadvantaged, the weak and the vulnerable are overlooked. Intolerance Uniformity is a feature of this new neo-liberal secularised ‘progressive’ society. Ironically the internet, the world wide web and social media tend to endorse its intolerance towards disparate opinions. In this environment freedom of expression, and at times even freedom of thought, seems to be in peril. Representatives of the media ought to be champions of independent opinion. Yet many of them share a self-assured group-think which is not conducive to dialogue. There are shades of George Orwell’s 1984 and ‘Big Brother’. Pope Francis has noted this stultifying uniformity of thought. In a homily on April 10, 2014 he stated: “Today uniform thought has been turned into an idol. Today one has to think in a certain way, and if you don’t think in this way you are not modern, you are not open.” Representatives of the media ought to be champions of independent opinion” Murray casts a cold eye on this environment and draws attention to the moral and social deficits of our individualist and consumerist society. He highlights the destructive effect of the modern relativist approach to reality and truth. Thus the first imperative in attempting the ‘Picking up of the Shards’ of society is to encourage people to seek the truth and speak the truth. This timely and thoughtful monograph is a clarion call to fellow-Christians to undertake this challenge as their predecessors have done so often in former times. The post Rebuilding the shattered fanes appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Irish liberators of Europe
A Bloody Dawn: The Irish At D-Day by Dan Harvey (Merrion Press, €14.95) Joe
 Carrol   The author, a retired army officer, has done extensive research to establish the role played by Irish participants (from the North as well as the South) in the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944. He has also included the Irish contribution to the preparations for Operation Overlord and its aftermath up to the end of the fighting in Europe in May 1945. Irish chaplains are also included and many will still remember Fr Patrick Crean who returned from the war with a decoration for bravery and went on to serve in the more peaceful confines of Donnybrook parish. As the number of Catholic Irish in the armed forces increased, Cardinal McRory of Armagh had to send out a call for more Irish chaplains. The religious orders responded immediately and those who ministered in the RAF were given the rank of squadron leader! Irish
 contribution Tracking down the Irish contribution to D-Day and the lead up to it was a daunting task in itself. At times Lt-Col Harvey throws his Irish net very wide indeed when he includes Henry Ford, General de Gaulle and Sam Beckett who while not fighting on the beaches did contribute in their own way to the struggle against the Nazi tyranny. But the emphasis is on the role played out on the beaches, at sea and in the air by Irish combatants, many of whom gave their lives in the effort. The author estimates that from D-Day to end of the hostilities 11 months later, some 850 Irish died fighting across France and Germany, and that about 400 of these were from southern Ireland. In the Italian campaign, of the 650 killed about 300 were from the south and in Malaya/Burma, 300, all from the south, were killed. The author touches briefly on how many of the Irish combatants may have deserted from the ranks of those at home defending Irish neutrality. Northerners and southerners were proud to fight side by side on the beaches” Irish soldiers who had become bored with manoeuvres on the Curragh and decided to join the struggle to preserve democracy. The precise figure may never be known although the author states confidently that out of the 42,000 who served in the Defence Forces during the Emergency “4,983 deserted to join the Allied armies fighting Germany and Japan”. In June 2012 the Irish Government decided “to grant a pardon and amnesty to those who absented themselves from the Irish Defence Forces without leave or permission to fight on the Allied side”. In any case, “deserters” were only a fraction of the estimated 60,000 southern Irish who volunteered to fight against fascism. Less than 40,000 volunteered in Northern Ireland which was officially at war with the Axis powers, but did not have conscription. There was some embarrassment for Northern politicians when the full extent of the southern contribution and list of decorations for bravery were published after the war. But as this book makes clear, northerners and southerners were proud to fight side by side on the beaches whether they were in the Irish Guards or the Inniskilling Fusiliers. Some Irish women in France also showed great bravery when they joined the Resistance. Many Irish women also served as nurses in dangerous frontline casualty stations. We can be proud of those Irish who fought to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny and this book shows why. The post Irish liberators of Europe appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
A meeting place for every citizen
The Mansion House and The Irish Revolution, 1912-1923 by Mícheál Mac Donncha (Dublin City Council / Four Courts Press, €25.00) Thomas J.
 Morrissey   The author of this work was Lord Mayor of Dublin, 2017-2018. He has a deep feeling for Irish history, especially with regard to the years 1912-1923. During those years the Mansion House hosted many significant meetings and was associated with major events, including the meeting of the First Dáil Éireann in 1919. Mr Mac Donncha has brought together in this book the key events that happened in the Mansion House in those tumultuous years. He has done so with an inter-mixture of text and illustration. The work is attractively printed and produced, and its range of photographs from the period includes some seldom previously seen. Freedom In his Introduction, the author pays a special tribute to the Lord Mayor during many of the years under review, Laurence O’Neill, who ensured that the Mansion House remained a place “where freedom of speech and freedom of assembly could be exercised by all”. This was manifested on the very day of the inauguration of the First Dail. That morning, the House welcomed a group from The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Regiment of the British army. Union Jacks flew in the morning and were replaced by Tricolours in the afternoon. The author pays a special tribute to the Lord Mayor during many of the years under review, Laurence O’Neill” The book opens with a summary of the history of the Mansion House during its 300 years existence, and then moves to 1912, when John Redmond celebrated in the Round Room the introduction of the Home Rule Bill at the House of Commons in April 1912. It marked the summit of achievements for the Irish Party. There followed the succession of events linked to the Mansion House that changed Irish history: the North’s threat of armed resistance to Home Rule, the rise of the Irish Volunteers in the South, the Great Strike/Lock Out of 1913, the First World War, the deferring of Home Rule, the recruitment of troops for the war and the visit of Prime Minister Asquith (with photograph of his arrival to the Mansion House), and on to 1916 and the eventful years from 1918 to 1923. The years from 1912 to 1914 are reflected in cartoons by Ernest Kavanagh, who was to be killed during 1916. The main contestants in those years of change and revolution are photographed in the book, among them, in a photograph rarely seen, a group of men, for and against the Treaty, who met in the spring and early summer of 1922 in an effort to avoid Civil War. As depicted in the photograph, they were: Liam Mellows, Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin, Liam Lynch, Eoin O’Duffy, Sean Moylan and Séan Mac Eóin. Unusual 
feature An unusual feature of the present fascinating book is that the story is told in English for the first 69 pages, and then, if one turns the book around, the story is re-told in Irish, but with additional photographs. It is Mac Donncha’s hope that the reader of the book will experience some bit of the feeling expressed by Máire Comerford following her presence at the meeting of the First Dail Eireann: “Never was the past so near, or the present so brave, or the future so full of hope.” The post A meeting place for every citizen appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Milstein and Hibernian Orchestra’s share their riches
Pat O'Kelly   Until earlier this month I hadn’t heard the Hibernian Orchestra for quite some time. I was actually drawn to its latest event at the National Concert Hall by its soloist, French pianist Nathalia Milstein. She took first prize in the 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition when, for once, I agreed with the jury’s verdict. Mlle Milstein has come back to Ireland on a number of occasions including a nationwide tour under the auspices of Music Network as part of her DIPC prize. She also returned to the NCH in May 2018 playing Mozart’s K 488 Concerto with the RTÉ NSO. This time, with the Hibernian Orchestra, her concerto choice was Chopin’s E minor Op 11. Her playing was magical. Chopin was barely 20 when he completed the concerto, in fact his second in order of composition, but published before his F Minor, which has the Opus Number 21. Chopin had the E Minor in his luggage when he left Poland en route, as he thought, to England. However finding himself in Vienna he obtained a passport to Paris, where he lived until his death from tuberculosis in 1849. Playing the E Minor Concerto in one of his early concerts in the French capital, the Parisian audience loved it and judging by Nathalia Milstein’s performance, there is no doubt about her grá for the work as well. The opening Allegro maestoso found her etching its main theme with expressive grandeur. Nathalia Milstein had a lovely way of emphasising Chopin’s melodic lines with both clarity and elegance. While the movement has a lengthy orchestral introduction, neatly phrased by the Hibernian players, once the soloist gets going there is hardly a moment’s respite. Words 
 heart In the central Larghetto, Mlle Milstein’s playing was particularly gentle and graceful. Belleek china crossed my mind and obviously Nathalia Milstein took Chopin’s words to heart, “not meant to be loud, it is more of a romance, quiet with melancholy. It should give the impression of gazing tenderly at a place, which recalls a thousand dear memories. It is a sort of meditation in beautiful spring weather, but by moonlight”. The orchestra was nicely unobtrusive but rightly assertive when the music demanded in the concluding Rondo. With Polish folkdance rhythms to the fore, the movement is highly agreeable and Nathalia Milstein, with the Hibernian Orchestra under John Finucane’s inspired direction, extracted its musical essence perfectly. The evening’s symphony was Rachmaninov’s Second. Containing almost an hour’s music, the ‘big play’ piece is a challenge for any orchestra. Happy to relate, the Hibernian ensemble came through with flying colours. Maybe the strings needed a little more body here and there and the tinkle of the glockenspiel in the Scherzo was a little swamped but these are only minor details in what was a terrific interpretation of the composer’s masterpiece. Under Maestro Finucane, the lengthy Adagio was unfolded with impassioned purpose, conveying Rach-maninov’s romantic vision with flowing momentum that had majestic bearing. The exuberant Finale showed the Hibernians’ confidence remaining intact to the ebullient concluding bars. Indeed, a richly satisfying concert. The post Milstein and Hibernian Orchestra’s share their riches appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Callan kicks off ‘Divorcing God’ debate
So, you want to explore the state of religion in the country today, what do you do? Send an agnostic, avowedly cynical, gay comedian to do the job? Well, it might work? That’s what happened with Divorcing God (RTÉ1, Wednesday) presented by Oliver Callan. The show was interesting, there were some reasonably fresh perspectives, observations and reflections. He certainly wasn’t out to do a hatchet job on the Church, and wasn’t a fan of an aggressive secularism that would wipe the Church from the national stage altogether (low bar?). There were mentions of babies and bathwater, but there were gaps: no sign of vibrant Catholic youth festivals, Youth 2000, the Emmanuel concerts, parish catechists and many more green shoots. The role of religion in the arts barely figured, there were no young priests or nuns giving their perspective and other religions were poorly represented. There were many positives too; Callan was respectful of the religious people he interviewed and gave the impression of one open to religious belief. He certainly acknowledged all the good the Church has done in schools and hospitals, while also reminding us of the pain and hurt caused – the abuse scandals were prominent. He visited a Catholic school and when asking a class who was proud to be Catholic, most students raised their hands but asking who believed in all the Church’s ideas no one raised a hand – hardly surprising given the loaded question! Estranged As a gay person he felt estranged from the Church but had never heard anything homophobic from the altar. He did reference the idea of being gay as a sin, which of course the Church never taught. No one made the distinction between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. He visited one of the new evangelical churches for a worship service, and there were plenty of young people there, but someone could have told him that young Catholics can be evangelical too (I didn’t get to see the show live because I was with around 300 of them at the Matt Maher concert in  St Paul’s Arran Quay, where there is a range of lively activities for enthusiastic young Catholics). He featured a young family who were not into religion at all and a young family for whom Mass going and Catholic schooling were still important, though the mother was in favour of women priests and didn’t follow the Church on all social issues. It’s hard to find enthusiastic and orthodox young Catholics represented in the media. In one scene he visited a church with a youthful choir where, though not ‘in communion’, he received Communion. I wasn’t keen on his use at times of the word “we”– who was he presuming to speak for? It seemed his thesis was that the Catholic Church wasn’t dead yet and had more life in it than “we” thought. Not entirely unrelated, Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1, Thursday) featured an item on euthanasia. Campaigner Tom Curran described setting up a more affordable way of offering assisted suicide in Switzerland . He described a new killing machine, but of course it wasn’t called that, as euphemism is one of the main tools in the armoury of those who would break down our long-standing and innate reluctance to kill others. At times it felt like an ad for the service – the interview was almost entirely unchallenging. This was followed by an interview with Prof. Des O’Neill who had major reservations. He pointed out the contradiction between this initiative and our society’s current concerns about the prevalence of suicide. Both in real life, and in some movies he referenced, euthanasia was often used in situations of inadequate care – he lamented the many misperceptions around care at the end of life. Significantly he was questioned more robustly than was the case with Mr Curran, with the little god of ‘choice’ being raised as if it should trump all else. Euthanasia was one of the issues raised in Catholic Enlightenment (EWTN, Saturday). Fr Andrew Pinsent raised a point echoing Prof. O’Neill – the danger of some lives being seen as not worth living. This ongoing show is rather talky, just a conversation between him and Fr Marcus Holden, but the issues are certainly of interest, with the main emphasis being on what Catholicism has contributed to the modern world – I’d suspect people would be surprised at the number of anti-Catholic myths that get busted!   Pick of the Week CONVINCED EWTN, Saturday, June 22, 9.30 pm While discerning his own conversion, Donald Johnson travelled around the country and met all kinds of people who overcame obstacles and opposition to fully embrace their Catholic faith. MASS RTÉ1, Sunday, June 23, 11 am Live Mass with a gathered congregation from St. Conleth’s Church, Newbridge. Celebrant is Fr Paul Dempsey,  with music by the In Caelo choir. Musical director: Cora Coffey. ST THOMAS MORE: FAITHFUL STATESMAN EWTN, Monday, June 24, 7 pm The career of St Thomas More is examined for the numerous instances in which he displayed the virtues which distinguished him as a model for others in public and political life. The post Callan kicks off ‘Divorcing God’ debate appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
The summits of sheer stupidity
Mainly About Books by the books editor   I have been wondering over recent days what Achille Ratti, later in life Pope Pius XI, would have thought of the recent images of toe-to-heel climbers, some 300 of them, ascending Mount Everest to take a selfie at the summit. In the course of this insane “bucket-list of awesome things to do before you die” pseudo-adventure, into an area rightly called a “death zone”, some 11 people have died over the last month. In his younger and heartier days, Ratti (born in 1857) was an energetic Alpinist among the mountains between northern Italy and Switzerland. He was said to have ‘conquered’ something like a hundred previously unclimbed peaks. Such was his renown that he published a book about his adventures, Climbs on Alpine Peaks (1923). He belonged to the pioneering ranks of mountain climbers, not quite the first generation, but certainly the second. Such an activity was then a minority sport, the dangers of which were recognised. It was no safe outing for overweight tourists, as today. Ratti was an experienced athlete. He knew what he was doing. He also knew when to stop. By the time he was elected Pope he had given up his scrambles in the Alps. Many of those who are taken up Everest today do not know what they are doing; they are quite untrained, some of them only seeing their equipment for the first time at the base camp. They bask in the conceit that people having fun will not be allowed to die. The trips cost on average about $60,000; $130,000 for the de luxe service. If anything happens to them they will, of course, in the now universal American manner, sue the company. Abode 
 gods In Nepal, Tibet and China, respect for the majesty of natural creation, prevented the local people from climbing these peaks, though what happens now is more akin to assault and battery. But what can one expect. Every summer we see even Irish charities organising ‘fund-raising’ climbs of the Ruwenzori, runs in the Andes, Machu Picchu challenges – that sort of thing. With little or no consideration for what this intrusion means to the environment of these places. But as the great French criminologists Dr Locard taught, “every contact leaves a mark”. An ancient Chinese punishment was death by a thousand cuts. We seem incapable of respecting and enjoying things for what they are, from a distance. This is not a new problem. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote: “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; / And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; / And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell...” It has become a truism that humanity itself is destroying the world around us, “our common home”. There ought to be places where no-one should go. The incessant urge to travel, even if only on a monster cruise liner with 6,000 passengers – the population of Ballinasloe on one ship – ought to end. Some places have been so destroyed nobody wants go there. One of these places is Chernobyl” As for Everest, all around the foot of the mountain can be seen the rubbish heaps of bottles and tin cans left behind by previous expeditions and weekend outings. Pictures of these are never published in the papers. “That’s not what people want to see,” editors always say – let’s have a cute panda instead. Yet ironically, some places have been so destroyed nobody wants go there. One of these places is Chernobyl, everyone’s short hand for the nearly ultimate disaster that kills at once, and goes on killing - for radiation sickness hangs around a long time. Yet the district is strangely enough teeming with renewed wild life, creatures unharried by human intrusion. And so, thank God, as Hopkins reminds us, and Achille Ratti would have heartily endorsed, 
“...for all this, nature is never spent;/ There lives the dearest freshness deep down things ...” [Achille Ratti: Il prete alpinista che diventò Papa, by Domenico Flavio Ronzoni (Bellevita, €15.00, 2009) is still available.] The post The summits of sheer stupidity appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
When love overcame violence after the Charleston Church shooting
When love overcame violence after the Charleston Church shooting osegura Fri, 06/14/2019 - 16:19 Advertisement
In ‘Booksmart,’ these girls just want to belong
In ‘Booksmart,’ these girls just want to belong Tim Reidy Fri, 06/14/2019 - 16:17 Advertisement
Review: Can the university be sacred space for reasoned discourse?
Review: Can the university be sacred space for reasoned discourse? For anyone who knows him—and I do (he mentions me in this book)—John Sexton, president emeritus of New York University, is one of the most lovable people in higher education. But he is also one of the smartest and most articulate practitioners and advocates for higher education in the world today, as is evidenced by Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age. Advertisement Sexton traces his inspiration to become an educator to the legendary Charlie Winans, his teacher at the Jesuits’ Brooklyn Prep and to Timothy Healy, S.J., a young faculty member at Fordham University when Sexton studied there, who went on to become the transformational president of Georgetown University. Sexton’s career path was certainly out of the ordinary. He was a debate coach at a girls’ Catholic high school in Brooklyn while studying at Fordham, where he earned a doctorate in theology, studying with another legend, Ewert Cousins. He taught theology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn before he made a radical turn and found his true vocation in the law at Harvard Law School. He then went on to become a faculty member at New York University, dean of its law school and eventually its president from 2002 to 2015. John Sexton, president emeritus of New York University, is one of the most lovable people in higher education. This book is about Sexton’s passions, particularly for reasoned discourse, which he learned as a debater at Brooklyn Prep and as a debate coach. This passion explains his deep distress at the dogmatism that he feels his church broke out of but that now afflicts the secular world, especially political discourse in the United States. He sees the university as a counterforce, a sacred space for reasoned discourse, though one now itself threatened by unreason from within and without. Standing for Reason is also about Sexton’s passion for the ecumenical university, inspired by his experience of a more ecumenical church and his efforts to realize that model through the creation of N.Y.U.’s global network university, with coequal “portal” campuses in New York, Dubai and Shanghai. And finally, it is about his passion for equal access for all to university education and the concrete proposals he offers for achieving this, especially through a program of income-based repayment of student debt. Sexton’s passion and commitment are infectious, and one cannot help hoping along with him that our universities will be able to realize the great aspirations that he has for them. If there were only more John Sextons, they would! [email protected]… Thu, 06/13/2019 - 18:24 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Kilop Frew4 hours 20 min ago thanks for such amazing article! Advertisement
Review: A new biography shares the endearing human side of Raymond E. Brown
Review: A new biography shares the endearing human side of Raymond E. Brown It is no mean achievement to encapsulate the career and personality of a man who loomed so large in the field of biblical studies in the span of just over 300 pages, but Donald Senior, C.P., has done just that in Raymond E. Brown and the Catholic Biblical Renewal. Advertisement Senior presents a scholar who, while prolific and erudite in his writings, was famously reticent when it came to his personal life story. But thanks to Senior’s exhaustive research, we get to see the endearing human side of Brown. He talked like James Cagney and lived like Oscar Madison. His idea of “fine dining” was to simply eat out of a can and slather the contents with hot sauce. He wore clothes until they were threadbare. His legions of students would be surprised to learn that he, too, liked diversion as he worked: He was a huge fan of the television detective Mannix and would have the show on while he was composing his masterpieces of biblical exegesis. It was altogether appropriate, for like the fictional detective, Brown worked to ferret out underlying truths. A devotee of the opera, he eagerly gave tickets to his students, hoping to get them totally immersed in the arias he loved. As a professor, he was exacting but kind. He did not care for seminars, however—they literally put him to sleep, and he would often wake up only when they ended. A sociable man, he thrived on a good literary party, especially when his favorite libations (Manhattans) were at the ready the minute he entered the room. Raymond E. Brown was a huge fan of the television detective Mannix and would have the show on while he was composing his masterpieces of biblical exegesis. The human aspect is not the only concern of this book, of course. Senior also devotes attention to Brown’s prodigious biblical scholarship. He was devoted to plumbing the riches of Scripture, and sometimes this put him in the crosshairs of controversy. He fervently believed that one cannot even begin to appreciate biblical texts without understanding the circumstances in which they were written, the languages that were used and the tenor of the times when they were composed. Brown was originally known for his work on Johannine studies. Later, he was recognized for his editorship of the groundbreaking Jerome Biblical Commentary. He would later gain the distinction of being the only person to have held the presidency of all three major biblical scholarship associations in addition to being a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. But for Brown, the most important thing was his vocation of proclaiming God’s word by the study of it. [email protected]… Thu, 06/13/2019 - 17:55 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
Review: Roger Angell’s love for our national pastime
Review: Roger Angell’s love for our national pastime Of the recent books I have read about baseball, Joe Bonomo’s book chronicling the career of Roger Angell, No Place I Would Rather Be, is one of the best, not only for Bonomo’s considerable writing skills, but also for his compelling portrayal of Angell’s erudition and unique focus on the “lesser and sweeter moments” of the sport he loves. Advertisement In Angell’s decades as an editor and writer for The New Yorker, he carved out a fascinating niche for himself by writing not so much about what happens on the field, but more about the goings-on in the stands and in the minds and hearts of the game’s faithful. A keen-eyed observer of the human condition, he zeroed in on what he described as the game’s “lovely mystery, the slow, taut, speculative ticking of baseball time.” As Bonomo observes, Angell’s eloquence and almost anthropological perspective allowed him to lay down lyrical passages—like “a handful of men, we discover, can police a great green country, forestalling unimaginable disasters”—without ever sounding overly labored or sentimental. By quoting from Angell’s many published essays, Bonomo displays the vast expanse of subjects he covered: from fans’ paradoxical attraction to both winning and losing (their “love of the game’s capriciousness,” as Bonomo describes it) to the cognitive dissonance arising from the contrasting social locations of baseball’s members and the less fortunate denizens outside the stadium (he quotes Angell as lamenting the “poor cities and rich sports, a lot of unnoticed kids playing in burnt-out playgrounds, and a few men playing before great crowds in a new sports palace”). A keen-eyed observer of the human condition, Roger Angell zeroed in on baseball's “lovely mystery, the slow, taut, speculative ticking of baseball time.” Above all, the book explains why Angell’s baseball writing stands out amid that of his peers. Angell makes a “deft and sincere movement from observing a game to sensing something larger and more complex and lasting.” This movement allows Angell to transcend the limitations of more quantitative sports writing in order to show us why we should care about baseball. Its timeless sounds soothe and excite us, and our peculiar love for the game and its rhythms unites us, briefly freeing us from the travails of our daily lives and the punishing news cycle. Or, as Angell says: “Most of all, I think, baseball disarms us.” We are released into the “great green country” patrolled by our heroes and antiheroes alike, each ready for the next arcing singularity that may come their way. What a blessed relief! keane Thu, 06/13/2019 - 15:09 Show Comments ( ) Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Advertisement
Why is Irish not our spoken language?
Gaeilge: A Radical Revolution by Caoimín De Barra (Currach Press, €14.99) This is an interesting polemic which argues that Irish should and could be restored as the generally spoken language of most people in the Republic of Ireland. In the introduction the author acknowledges that most people have already made up their minds on this issue. However, he forges ahead with his thesis. He begins with his experience learning Irish. He rates the teaching of the subject at the schools he attended in Cork – Cloghroe National School and Christian Brothers College – as satisfactory. Yet when he ended his secondary education his knowledge of Irish was unsatisfactory. However, it was the opposite with regard to other subjects, particularly English and History. Significantly he notes that his father had frequently impressed upon him the importance of English and that he and his father shared a keen interest in Irish history. De Barra sets out the main stages in the decline of Irish. The 17th Century saw the linguistic balance of power in Ireland shift sharply in favour of English as a result of political developments. The battle of Kinsale in 1601 marked the end of the independent Gaelic lordships and the Irish-speaking elite that had held sway over the island. The Cromwellian campaign of the 1650s and the Williamite wars later in the century brought about a massive land transfer from the native Irish to settlers from England and Scotland. The Irish who managed to keep their lands found it politic to speak English rather than Irish. But the Great Famine (1845-49) was arguably the primary reason for the decline of Irish. Within six years one third of the Irish-speaking world had vanished – these speakers had either died or fled overseas. Efforts were made by the independent Irish State to promote the language. In 1919 the first Dáil Éireann made it clear that the revival of Irish was one of its priorities. It declared Irish to be the ‘first official language’ and it was made compulsory in primary and secondary schools. Also, in most schools other subjects were taught through the medium of Irish. Arrangements were made whereby all government business could be conducted in the vernacular. Fluency There were many other incentives, including a wide range of scholarships, to promote the language. The results are not encouraging. According to the 2016 census just under 40% of Irish people claimed to be able to speak the language. But experts question the level of fluency with which they are able to do so. A more realistic figure about the health of the language is that just 1.7% of the population are daily speakers of Irish. De Barra discusses the challenges faced by other minority languages. He describes the travails of these promoting Welsh in Wales, Scots-Gaelic in Scotland, French in Canada and Spanish in the US. Yet Israel made Hebrew – a dead language- the State’s official and generally spoken language. And Bahasa was successfully established as the official language across the hundreds of islands that constitute Indonesia (though this is not such a good example as it is an example of Javanese internal colonialism over minority groups). The author rightly says that the main reason why Irish people do not speak Irish is because they have no need to do so. Thus to have Irish spoken more generally a situation has to be created where it is necessary to speak it. To this end he suggests a radical transformation of the government bureaucracy, whereby all its business would be conducted in Irish with only exceptional arrangements for those who wish to access its services in English. In theory this could lead to more Irish being spoken, but in reality it is most unlikely that it will ever be realised. The Irish electorate would have none of this. Internet The internet and the world wide web have sounded the death knell for many minority languages across the world. Some are extinct. The aphorism tír gan teanga, tír gan anam is a truism. Hence it is incumbent on all who love the language to be strongly supportive of the Irish language enthusiasts who are diligent in ensuring that this crucially important element of our national heritage is not lost. The post Why is Irish not our spoken language? appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Dublin way back then
A Different Dublin: The 1960s through the lens, photographs by Bill Hogan (Currach Books, €19.99) Bill Hogan was a cinema projectionist in different cinemas across Dublin in the 1960s. He worked largely at night, so most of the daylight hours were his own to indulge his developing interest in street photography. He was largely inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson. His images have fortunately been rescued and are now published. They quite rival the more famous Fr Browne’s. Though he came from comfortable working class people, what Bill Hogan saw and recorded on the streets of Dublin moved and troubles him. “I will never forget the emptiness and loneliness on the faces of some of the homeless that I photographed.” In one image a protester holds up a sign: “10,000 homeless In Dublin.” The current figure is 10,378 (Peter McVerry Trust), so no improvement there. This book is not a social study of that kind. But the images of the elderly, the poor and those scraping a living are matched by images of well-fed young people in good jobs or at college. Yet the dominant feeling is not of an ageing worn out city, but one teeming with vital and active young children at active and hearty play. However thinking about the images one realises what is missing: working men in their 30s and 40s: emigration was still cutting deeply into the society of both Dublin and rural Ireland. This is a moving and thought provoking book, one by a Dubliner who knows his city and its people. The post Dublin way back then appeared first on The Irish Catholic.
Confessional reform of abrasive talk show hostess
 (15A) I’ve often wondered when they’d get around to doing a millennial version of Sidney Lumet’s Network. Here it’s crossed with The Devil Wears Prada. It’s the story of how Katie Hopkins becomes Ellen DeGeneres, how Margaret Thatcher becomes Theresa May. Emma Thompson is misogynistic chat show hostess Katherine Newbury, a televisual dinosaur. She’s political incorrectness personified, a woman who talks at you instead of to you. She’s been getting away with it for decades but now the long knives are out. The Youtube generation is catching up on her. Her ratings are falling. Her boss wants her head on a plate. Then she becomes embroiled in a sex scandal. Her humanisation comes about through default. This dilutes its cathartic element. The film moves in fits and starts. She makes a few stabs at reformation early on but then reverts into her more customary sniping. I liked that about it. Life mirrors such inconsistency. The downside is that we feel we’re constantly being thrown narrative curve balls. Twice, for instance, she fires the “diversity hire” comedy writer Molly (Mindy Kaling). Molly is ethnic and a woman – two things that have formerly been anomalous within the waspish all-male milieu over which Katherine has presided since Adam was a (white) boy. For a comedy writer I only recall hearing two of Molly’s jokes in the film. Where are the rest of them? When she’s fired the first time she doesn’t seem to mind but when Newbury tells her she’s surplus to requirements the second time she goes into a meltdown. This kind of inconsistency rankles. Newbury lacks a heart most of the time. The effort of director Nisha Ganatra to give her one in the last reel is perhaps too little too late. Her relationship to her husband (a Parkinsons disease-afflicted John Lithgow) is also under-developed. Thompson’s most endearing quality has always been her likeability. There’s not enough of that in evidence here to make the film hum. And can we really believe she hasn’t met her writers despite working in the same building as them for 27 years? The fact that the film can intrigue and amuse us for 100 minutes despite these stumbling blocks is a tribute not only to Ganatra but also to Kaling’s script. A panegyric to writers themselves, those fifth wheels of most aspects of the arts, it fizzes with quotable quotes. Some of you might find it too smart-alecky (or vulgar) but it captures the dog-eat-dog world of TV to a ‘t’. If Newbury is a reincarnated Howard Beale (the deranged prophet of Network), she’s a cold-blooded version of him. For a comedic performer she lacks humour – unless it’s of the iconoclastic variety. Maybe this is where humour is at today. Maybe it’s where it’s always been at. Whatever, Ganatra and Kaling nail it. This will make Late Night very appealing to a generation weaned on the laceration of sacred cows. ................................. FILM: 'Late Night' Release Date: June 7, 2019. Running time: 102 MIN. DIRECTOR: Nisha Ganatra PRODUCTION: Producers: Mindy Kaling, Howard Klein, Ben Browning, Jillian Apfelbaum. Executive producers: Alison Cohen, Milan Popelka, Micah Green, Daniel Steinman. CREW: Director: Nisha Ganatra. Screenplay: Mindy Kaling. Camera (color): Matthew Clark. Editors: Eleanor Infante, David Rogers. Music: Lesley Barber. WITH: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Amy Ryan, John Lithgow, Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, Ike Barinholtz ................................. Very Good: ★ ★ ★ ★ ................................. The post Confessional reform of abrasive talk show hostess appeared first on The Irish Catholic.