Archive for April, 2007

Mets Week In Review: 23-29 April

Note: In an effort to reduce clutter in Panorama of the Mountains I’m keeping myself to just one Mets post per week. I’ll write up my thoughts after each game and when the week is up I’ll publish them in one big post. For this reason, thoughts on an individual game will have a certain immediacy and lack of awareness of what comes after.

23 April 2007
Rockies 1, Mets 6

I did not get to watch this game due to my late hours at work. After struggling against the Braves, the Mets proved once again that they can take the mediocre teams handily, which I guess I should look at in a half-full way. John Maine is getting a lot of credit for pitching into the 8th inning which shows how low the expectations for pitchers are these days, but still bully for him. I really like how the Down Easter is maturing this season. David Wright is still looking lost at the plate but luckily Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and now Carlos Delgado are more than enough to carry the offense (not to mention some better-than-expected contributions this season by Jose Valentin, Shawn Green, and Moises Alou).

Players of the game (I award up to ten points, maximum of 6 points to one player, distributed among the Mets players who had the biggest impact in the game):

  • Alou 2.5
  • Delgado 1.5
  • Feliciano .50
  • Maine 2.5
  • Valentin 3

24 April 2007
Rockies 1, Mets 2 (12 innings)

The second game of the Rockies series provided drama, heroics, and the most exciting game of the season thus far. Orlando Hernandez and Aaron Cook matched zeroes in a pitching duel. In fact there was no scoring at all in regulation play and I figured the game would have to go to penalty kicks. The Rockies broke the tie on Tulowitzki’s triple off Wagner in the 10th inning. Down to their last strike, it looked like the game was over for the Mets, but Damion Easley launched his second homer of the season in the bottom of the 10th. Then in 12th inning, the Mets won in the most improbable manner. Endy Chavez put down a perfect drag bunt to score Shawn Green from third base. Jason at Faith & Fear in Flushing captures the excitement in a lyrical and literary manner as always in his post 485 Unexpected Feet.

Players of the game

  • Chavez 1.5
  • Easley 2
  • Green 1
  • Heilman .50
  • Hernandez 3
  • Schoeneweis .50
  • Smith .50
  • Valentin .50
  • Wright .50

25 April 2007
Rockies 11, Mets 5

Disproving the notion that there are such things as momentum in baseball, or even that the better team should win, the Rockies clobbered the Mets in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. The less said about this game the better.

  • Chavez 2.5
  • Easley .50
  • Feliciano .25
  • Green 2.5
  • Reyes 3.5
  • Smith .25
  • Valentin .50

27 April 2007
Mets 3, Nationals 4

The Mets start worrying me by losing for the second time in as many games to a sub-par team. The usual suspects were out in full force, that is inability for the offense to capitalize and leaving lots of runners on base. Ollie Perez surrendering a three-run homer in the first inning didn’t help, but you have to give him credit for settling down and striking out 9 batters with zero walks. Nope, the offense lost this game.

  • Alou 2.5
  • LoDuca 1
  • Perez 3.5
  • Smith 1
  • Wright 2

28 April 2007
Mets 6, Nationals 2 (12 innings)

The Mets returned to winning ways on Saturday albeit it took them until the 9th inning to get the bats going and to start driving in runs in their second extra inning game of the season. Julio Franco and Carlos Beltran proved to be the batting heroes in another game marked by great pitching. The game was also marred by poor umpiring. Greg at Faith & Fear has this commentary on how umpire Tony Randazzo affected the outcome of this game both to the detriment and advantage of the Mets.

  • Beltran 1.5
  • Castro .50
  • Franco 1
  • Glavine 1.5
  • Green 1
  • Reyes .50
  • Schoeneweis 1
  • Sele 1.5
  • Wagner .50
  • Wright 1

29 April 2007
Mets 1, Nationals 0

In the final game, the Mets managed to win the series. Just barely. This is the only game in the series I had the opportunity to watch and it was a classic pitching duel. While Carlos Beltran won the game on a towering homer in the 6th, but this game is most memorable for John Maine’s stellar pitching (7.0, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO). I’m still not convinced that the Mets’ starting pitching is not their Achilles Heel, but Maine and Perez are starting to make me feel less uneasy. Another highlight of this game is 48 year old John Franco playing first base and fielding a bunt on the third baseline! It was a key play in the game as it stymied a Nationals rally. Overall, the Mets aren’t looking their best in this series — especially as far as timely hitting goes — but their winning and that’s what matters most.

  • Beltran 2
  • Franco .50
  • Maine 4.5
  • Reyes 1.5
  • Schoeneweis 1
  • Wagner .50

So it was a good week for the Mets as the won both series and were 4-2 overall. In the week coming up the Mets will return home for 3 games versus Florida and then head out west for the first time for a 4 game set in Arizona. The Mets look to finish April in first place in the NL East and with the best record in the National League. After tomorrow’s game I should be able to award my Mets Player and Pitcher of the Month for April.

St. Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena

My personal acquaintance with Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) begins with the church I attended as a child, St. Catherine of Siena parish in Riverside, CT. It was here that I first learned to love the Mass, following along with the readings in the missal and singing out joyfully with the folk group. It was here too that I received Eucharist for the first time, my first Communion going ahead as scheduled despite the fact there was a fire in my house the night before or that my father injured himself in a fall that morning. I’m grateful that St. Catherine’s was the first of three Catholic faith communities I’ve been blessed to be a part of in my life. Presumably the parish name originated from the large Italian-American community in Connecticut, but about the woman herself I knew little until recently.

Catherine Benincasa was a remarkable woman for any age. In her youth she developed a strong devotion through prayer and visions and defiantly resisted her parents plans for her life. She refused to be married and instead joined a Dominican lay order and devoted herself to helping the poor and the sick. She was known for her many letters which while dictated were very strong and opinionated giving orders to bishops and royalty alike. She even attempted to resolve the crisis of the Avignon papacy. Late in her life she composed her great spiritual work The Dialogue of St. Catherine. She died young but accomplished much and was canonized 81 years after her death. In 1970, Paul VI named her as one of the first women and lay persons to be a Doctor of the Church.

When I went on retreat to Glastonbury Abbey during Lent I was perusing the bookstore shelves and found a number of small books in a series called “30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher”. Basically each day there’s a small passage from the writings of a great Christian writer to reflect on each day for a 30 day period. I decided to pick up Set Aside Every Fear: Love and Trust in the spirituality of Catherine of Siena. Afterwards I learned that by coincidence or divine providence the thirtieth and final day after the day I purchased the book was April 29, the feast day of Catherine of Siena. So I’ve spent the last 30 days praying and reflecting through the words of Catherine.

Other resources on Catherine of Siena:

April Faith, Spirituality & Religion News

A new book by Pope Benedict XVI accuses rich nations of robbery according to the Guardian.

It includes Benedict’s thoughts on the parable of the Good Samaritan, who went to the aid of a traveller shunned by other passers-by after he had been stripped and beaten by robbers. While many commentators accuse the rich nations of not acting like the Samaritan, the Pope goes a big step further and compares them to the thieves.

John Allen writes on the fast-track to canonize Pope John Paul II as saint. Some are questioning the seeming lack of prayerful deliberation and whether popes need be canonized at all.

Instead, the logic of formally canonizing someone, beyond doing justice to their memory, has usually been to offer them to the world as a role model of holiness, as an exemplar of the Christian life. But in the case of popes, their election has already accomplished that. A pope is easily the most visible Catholic figure in the world, and as the Vicar of Christ, is already looked to as a moral and spiritual exemplar.

For these reasons, skeptics say that making popes saints is, at best, superfluous, and at worst risks tarnishing the sainthood process with suspicions of hidden agenda. Their solution is generally an informal moratorium on declaring popes as saints.

John Garvey writes in Commonweal on Why People Leave the Church:

We excuse the institution and its representatives too easily. One of my teachers, the late historian and theologian John Meyendorff, pointed out that Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, the representatives of organized religion at the time, can-and should-be understood as a criticism of a similarly complacent and self-satisfied Christianity.

Whispers in the Loggia covers the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of New York.

Along these same lines, the See it embodies may no longer be the largest, was never the firstborn, and others could more aptly be highlighted for their consistency of innovation or creativity. But the qualifiers of age, artistry and size all vanish before New York’s singular, quasi-mythic status as America’s diocese, the Catholic bellwether of the public square even as the church in the United States has seen its center of gravity shift to the south and west at a dramatic clip

In Today’s News considers St. Paul’s views on homosexuality:

We cannot prove that Paul approved of homosexuality in some instances. We cannot know if would have approved of it in certain instances he and his audience never imagined. Yet, we also cannot prove he would have condemned it in certain instances he and his audience never imagined.

The simple fact is that the passage has no bearing on those “born gay” to anyone who accepts the possibility that a human person can be “born gay”.

John Allen writes about a possible motu proprio from Benedict XVI regarding authorization of a pre-Vatican II Latin Mass in Hold your breath for the next media frenzy (because apparently there are some Catholics who still prefer to worship in the language of pagan imperialists, a language never spoken by Christ and His apostles nor used to write sacred scripture, and a language few people understand today). Allen expects that it will cause a media frenzy but in the end have little effect on the majority of Catholics:

Be that as it may, there’s no doubt the motu proprio will be a media sensation, because the older Mass has become the most potent symbol of tensions over the basic direction of the Catholic Church in the period since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In the court of broad public opinion, expanded access to the pre-Vatican II rite will be interpreted as a victory for the church’s traditionalist wing, however the Vatican explains it.

John Allen also writes a review of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book Jesus of Nazareth which begins with this analysis of how the media covers religious news:

When people pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV news, they generally aren’t looking for a Sunday school lesson. This creates a challenge for journalists covering religious leaders, since most of their public utterances are devoted either to expounding their faith, or urging people to behave. The way reporters solve the problem is by combing through those utterances to find statements presumed to have broad, non-sectarian significance, normally because they apply to matters of politics or culture.

The result is that the real concerns of religious leaders, and the priority they assign to those concerns, often don’t come across terribly clearly — not because reporters aren’t doing their jobs, but because of how the news business works in a secular world.

Fr. Robert Barron’s article in US Catholic “Not Just Lip Service” explicates the Creed, the basics of our faith, and finds a lot of good in it.

A culturally perceptive friend of mine commented recently, “The church has for some time been seen as irrelevant; now it’s seen as irrelevant and corrupt.”

To respond to these objections, we have to point out that the church in which we place our faith is not primarily an institution. It is instead a body. In accord with Paul’s great metaphor, the church is a living organism composed of interdependent cells, molecules, and organs, whose head is Christ himself and whose lifeblood is the divine life flowing from the sacraments. This “Mystical Body” is Christ’s manner of being present to the world; it is his eyes, his ears, his hands, and his feet.

Just as you can’t possibly know me apart from my body—my physical presence, my voice, my gestures—so you can’t know Christ apart from his church. This is why when Catholics evangelize they don’t simply invite people to come into a personal relationship with Jesus; they invite people into the life of the church.

Book Review: Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations

When I was a child I created my own town in my backyard by sweeping out a grid of paths amid fallen leaves and building stick bridges over the ditch separating my family’s property with the neighbors’. In my college days I tried to create my own political ideology called Liamism, best described as “conservative anarchy.” I even came up with a movement called the Liamist National Front (LNF), and I think I even had one half-hearted follower. But I was never ambitious enough to attempt to create my own nation.

Recently I’ve learned of micronations, where individuals or small groups of people declare sovereignty over very small (sometimes imaginary) pieces of land. Some of them are jokesters, some are megalomaniacs, but some actually have an interesting cause or idea. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention a nation needs only four things to exist: permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states (p. 5-6). Some micronations actually do meet these standards of legitimacy but still fail to be recognized by other more established nations. Yet the micronation phenomenon is on the rise.

Now there is a guidebook to micronations as well. Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations like micronations themselves is part tongue-in-cheek, but also serious about providing information for actual travel to (or at least near) these tiny nations. The histories of these micronations are the most interesting parts of the book. Most seem to be founded by men who enjoy dressing in uniforms with epaulets who raise money by selling stamps, coins, and sometimes aristocratic titles. One thing is for sure is that in a world of 6 billion people, it’s hard to come up with an original idea as the stories behind these micronations become redundant after a while. Still there’s enough in this guidebook to provide a few chuckles and a few “oh” moments to make it worth a (quick) read.

Here are some of my favorite micronations featured in the book:

Sealand – a former anti-aircraft tower off the coast of England is the “only operating stationary man-made nation in the world” (p. 8). Sealand has a long and violent history including a failed coup which lead to a government-in-exile, the Principality of Sealand.

Christiana – located along the river in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Freetown of Christiania is a communal experiment in drugs (but no hard drugs), bicycles (no auto traffic), and peaceful living (no guns). Sounds like my kind of place. They’ve even developed their own type of utility bike. Rick Steves writes about the effort to Save Christiania.

Hutt River Province Principality – A well-established model for many micronations across the Australian continent, establishing postage, currency and other traditional elements of economy as well as a unique system of numerology.

Lovely – Possibly the most romantic name for a micronation, Lovely began on British comedian Danny Wallace’s television program How to Start Your Own Country. The entire country is located in King Danny I’s flat in suburban London.

Whangamomona – Not to be upstaged by Australia, this rural region in New Zealand has it’s own micronation. Unlike many of the micronations in this book, Whangamomona has a hotel, a national rugby team, walking trails, and a history of non-human presidents including a goat and a poodle. The citizens celebrate Republic Day in late January in odd-numbered years.

The Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands – In protest of Australia’s anti-same-sex marriage laws, Emperor Dale I established a gay & lesbian haven on a small coral island. Lonely Planet dares to ask if the Emperor is really a Queen and how the citizens expect to perpetuate the population of the kingdom.

Kingdom of Elleore – This small island near Denmark has the most fascinating history. Founded in the 1940’s by teachers who followed a philosophy built on the teachings of St. Fintan. Unbeknown to the founders, the island had been used centuries before for a monastery for monks from an order founded by St. Fintan. Only 12-year students from the school may apply for citizenship, and the island is inhabited only once a year for Elleorian Week.

Akhzivland – A peaceful oasis amid war torn Israel, Akhzivland is adjacent to the beach and a national park attracting hippy backpackers and newlywed couples. More information at “A World of His Own” by Colin Miller.

Northern Forest Archipelago – Here’s one close to home and built on principles I can appreciate, preserving and appreciating the natural resources of the Northern Forest. Despite the name, the NFA is entirely on the mainland, the “islands” being pockets of woods and waters across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.

Republic of Molossia – Another nation within a home, this is the republic of Kevin Baugh, President of Molossia which is surrounded by the state of Nevada. I particularly liked this comment from Lonely Planet regarding tours of Molossia: “Once you’ve called the government of Molossia and made arrangements, plan to spend as much as a whole hours sightseeing. Some visitors have tried to capture the spirit of the Molossian people in only 30 minutes. This package tour mentality will prevent you from getting a real taste of this unique culture” (p. 68).

The Copeman Empire – Located entirely within a caravan trailer home, this may be the only empire that travels within another sovereign nation. The story of King Nicholas (name legally changed) are documented in his book King Nicholas and he Copeman Empire. Visitors to the country may take tea and cucumber sandwiches with the king for only £1.50!

Republic of Kugelmugel – Edwin Lipburger’s experiment in post-modern architecture and spherical housing ran into trouble with the local authorities. So Lipburger declared it to be its own republic not subject to the laws of Austria. Ironically, these days Kugelmugel is on display in a theme park as an example of modern art and micronations, yet surrounded by barbed wire that keeps out even the nation’s president.

Aerican Empire – Founded by Eris Lis at the age of 5, the Aerican Empire may be the quirkiest of all micronations featuring its own religion, a belief in the coming of the Not-Quite-the-Apocalypse, and a national holiday for procrastinators.

Westartica – The founders of Westartica had an original idea among micronations: Find land on our planet unclaimed by any other nation. That it is a portion of Antarctica is small potatoes compared to the fact that Westartica really seems to have legitimate claim.

Maritime Republic of Eastport – Annapolis, Maryland is a lovely city and one of my favorite places to visit, but little did I know that just miles away across Spa Creek is the breakaway republic of Eastport. Annual events include a tug-of-war with their neighbors in the Annapolis and a 0.5 km run across the bridge separating Eastport from the USA.

The Conch Republic – The Florida Keys seceded from the United States in 1982 in response to border patrol roadblocks searching for drugs and illegal immigrants that caused crippling traffic on the islands. Since then the Conch Republic has successfully opposed an invasion by US forces and thrown some good parties.

Ladonia – A post about Ladonia at MetaFilter first brought my attention to the micronation phenomenon. This country, like Kugelmugel, originated when an artistic creation was condemned by local authorities in Sweden. The sculptures survive in independent Ladonia which has a growing, nomadic population.

State of Sabotage (SOS) – Taking it a step further, SOS is built on the principle that “nurturing the arts should be a new state’s ultimate aim (rather than sovreignty, commerce or war)” (p. 148). Originally a virtual nation, SOS now has land on Australia.

Then there are various nations that are not of this Earth, including The Kingdom of Tycho, The Principality of Voodice, and the Artemis Project, all of whom know that one day “You Will Go to the Moon.”

Links to other micronations mentioned in the book:
Principality of Freedonia
Empire of Atlantium
Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles
Principality of Vikesland
Sovereign Kingdom of Kemetia
Republic of Cascadia (silly) or Republic of Cascadia (serious)
Trumanist Republic of Trumania
Republic of Saugeais
Barony of Caux
Dominion of British West Florida
Grand Duchy of Elsanor
Snake Hill

More micronation resources are available through this portal and this discussion board.

Now the question remains, to which of these micronations should I grant my allegiance? Or should I start my own.

Book Review: Jamestown, the Buried Truth

As my mom likes to tell the story, back in 1994 archaeologist Bill Kelso addressed a small audience to introduce his plans for the Jamestown Rediscovery project. The lack of interest arose from the notion that all that could be learned about the early days of the settlement had already been discovered. It was popularly believed that the remains of James Fort had been eroded by the James River.

Bill Kelso proved them wrong.

Jamestown, the Buried Truth by William M. Kelso tells the story of 12 years of excavation and discovery at Jamestown. The remains of the triangular fort from Jamestown’s early period 1607-1624 were there to be found, and the was just the beginning. The archaeologists uncovered remnants of the monumental effort to build a new colony in an unforgiving country fighting diseases, weather, starvation and conflicts with the native population of Tsenacomacans. The material record tells stories undocumented in the colonists records and early histories. The archaeological team may even have uncovered the remains of Bartholomew Gosnold, an early leader of the colony.

Kelso emphasizes that despite their flaws and mistakes, the Jamestown settlers were far from failures and Jamestown was not a fiasco but in fact successfully the first permanent English settlement in North America. Much to my pleasure, Kelso writes a chapter on the long, often overlooked period of Jamestown after initial settlement. From 1619-1699 Jamestown was home to the first popularly elected governmental body and served as the capital of the Virginia Colony. Kelso traces the development of that government through the traces of the five structures that served as the State House.

I’ll be traveling to Virginia in a couple of weeks for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s settlement. It should be an exciting event and a big party. More information at Jamestown 2007 and Jamestown 400. Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne (National Park Service), and Historic Jamestowne (Association for the Preservation of Antiquities) are always worth a visit, in person or online.

Other Jamestownia worth reading:

The cover story in the May 2007 edition of National Geographic is all about America in 1607.

A January 9, 2007 article in the Boston Globe about archaeological discovery of seeds, Jamestown seeds reflect survival efforts.

If you like a little fiction in your history, there’s Secret Histories: The Jamestown Colony in Postmodern Fiction at The Millions (A Blog About Books).

Friday Sillies: Librarian video

A song and music video set in a library. In less than four minutes they manage to cram in just about every librarian stereotype there is. I particularly like how in popular culture anytime someone shelves a book they do it without looking. I guess the video is balanced by the many examples of bad patron behavior.

As an added bonus, check out Shorpy.com for this hilarious dummy letter featured in an episode of Leave it to Beaver. Ah, the things we can do with modern technology.

Book Review: Apex Hides the Hurt

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead is a darkly comic novel about a nomenclature consultant, that is a man who is called upon to come up with brand names for product. As the novel begins the protagonist, sideline from his lucrative corporate job by a mysterious toe injury, is called upon by the town council of Winthrop to help rename the town. Lucky Aberdeen, a software exec who speaks in corporate clinches and technobabble, wants to give the town the forward-looking name of New Prospera. Regina Goode, mayor and descendant of the towns original black settlers wants to revert to the name given to the town by it the freed slaves who founded the town, Freedom. Albie Winthrop represents the old money and is perfectly content with keeping his family’s name on the town. Over several days spent in Winthrop observing the consumerist culture suck the soul out of the town, the nomenclature consultant struggles with playing off these interested parties and his own skill at naming.

The title of the book comes from Apex adhesive bandages, a competitor to Band-Aid which rises to prominence after the producers start making them available in every skin tone of humankind. The protagonist gives the product his best name to the product and the marketers come up with the slogan “Apex Hides the Hurt.” It doesn’t take a PhD in literary criticism to see the symbolism of bandages that hide the wound. The lead character literally loses a toe because the bandages prevent him from seeing the wound festering and decaying. His inner pain is also covered by the unhealing bandage of consumer culture.

The significance of naming is also an important symbol. The power of names, and more so the power to give name are both very important. One could write a whole book about the topic, and Colson Whitehead has. In one of the great literary tricks, Whitehead gives us a man who creates names without giving that man a name himself. I enjoyed this book which was both funny and sad, often at the same time.

Favorite Passages

On the rare occasions that he entered libraries, he always felt assured of his virtue. If they figured out how to distill the essence of library into a convenient delivery system — a piece of gum or a gelcap, for example — he would consume it eagerly, relieved to be finished with more taxing methods of virtue gratification. Helping little old ladies across the street. Giving tourists directions. Libraries (p. 91-92).

Some people went for driftwood, others were suckers for cellar door, but as far as commonplace word units went, he had always been rather fond of shuttle bus, and back in his office days had spend many an afternoon advocating its case.

As perfect containers of that moment between anticipation and event, as roving four-wheeled or six-wheeled conveyances of hope, shuttle buses cannot be blamed if the destination disappoints, if desire is counterfeited, if after all that dreaming all we have to show are ashed. Shuttle buses, at worst, were unwitting accomplices. Being a shuttle bus, he argued, mean never having to say you’re sorry. He always expected applause when he finished (p. 101).

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