Finished Finnis

I just, and finally, finished John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights. Must blog some good quotations.
I hadn't realized it, but Plato actually wrote somewhere,

God is for us the measure [metron] of all things, and much more so than is any man, as they [the Sophists and Pythagoras] say.

, 715c.
Mercury, the Winged Messenger

NASA, God's gift to nerds, romantics, and us wierdo labrats, is sending a probe to Mercury. And not just another flyby like Mariner 10. This probe will orbit the planet.

Another mission is planned to Ceres and Vesta.

I'm having such fun keeping up with space missions these days!
Brother's Reaction

My younger brother wrote this to me today after watching two of my favorite films:

Hey - I watched "Persona" last night, and let me tell you....that is one strange movie. Where the heck did you get that film? I watched Blow-Up, which wasn't too bad - had a sensible story line, kept you guessing, but Persona was just WAY OUT THERE.

So I'm sending him some of my wife's Disneys for post-Persona therapy. LOL


***News Flash!***/***Book Alert!***

Harvard Univ. Press has just released a second volume of Harold J. Berman's Law and Revolution, subtitled The Impact of the Protestant Reformation on the Western Legal Tradition. From what I've browsed thus far this is a major contribution. Everyone should get and read this book.


BTW, I have an unneeded, unmarked photocopy of Averroes' commentary on the Republic (Cornell Univ. Press, 1974; Ralph Lerner, trans.). If anyone wants it, feel free to email me. (My bound copy came in the mail last week.)



My wife made lasagna tonight and it was soooooo good. I ate a quarter of the pan and gave a 8.9 on the 10 scale!


Joy of Joys!

Plunging deeper into Straussian waters . . .

My very own copy of Lerner & Mahdi's 1963 classic, Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook arrived today. (Cornell U. P. had it backordered for months.) This is a book that I've used since my Aristotle seminar with Shtromas sophomore year at Hillsdale--and now I finally have my own copy! (!!!) (And the copy already has its own contact paper.

Highlights include Al-Farabi on the Laws, Avicenna on prophecy, Avempace's Governance of the Solitary, Albo's Book of Roots, Aquinas' commentary on the Politics, and the Aegidus Romanus/John of Paris debate. Great stuff!

I think I feel an intellectual orgasm building . . .


Health, Travels, and the Open Ocean

I am finally getting over being sick. I came down with a sore through on March 4th. Then I flew to Baltimore with my wife to visit our (my new) darling nephews. Upon returning, I found myself plunged into a whirlwind at work, and then overworked, and it developed into a bad head cold. After spending three days on the couch, with heavy drainage and an intermitent fever, I went to a doctor (for the first time in years) and got on an antibiotic. My cold then turned into a persistent cough. I'm more or less over it now, but two weeks later.

This week, I travelled to Savannah, Georgia. While there, I attended part of the St. Patrick's Week festival. Apparently, Savannah has a huge Irish-Catholic population, and the second-largest parade in the country, after NYC. I have the beads to prove it.

While in Georgia, I had the opportunity to visit the Atlantic Ocean. It was wonderful to wade into the open sea at twilight. I hadn't been in a real ocean for years. (Last time was either Tynesmouth, England or Capri off Italy in 2001, before then, probably Holden Beach, NC, 1993ish.) Marsha was jealous when I called her via cell phone with breakers in the background. Now I'm sorta wishing we'd honeymooned in the Caribbean. :(


Planet X?

News sources are reporting
that NASA will announce the discovery of a large Transneptunian or Kuiper belt object. Provisionally named "Sedna," this object seems to be further out and larger than Quaoar or 2004 DW. If it's really 2000 km in diameter, it would be only sightly smaller than Pluto (2320 km).


Thoughts on The Passion

A powerful film.

Gibson's film is a tour de force. Certainly the film of 2004. To film what Mr. Handel's opus was opera? Not quite. The film will inevitably have signficance and impact quite beyond its artistic merits.

Stylistically . . . well, that's the easiest for me to assess . . . Stylistically, the film owes a LOT to Gladiator and to Braveheart. The Satan figure was clever, but reminded me ever so much of the figure of Death reappearing in Bergman's The Seventh Seal. The flashbacks to John 15 and the Last Supper worked very well.

This is a film that no Eastern Orthodox, and probably also no Protestant, could have made. It is distinctively RC, and medieval-purgatorial, and chiefly in its singleminded focus on suffering and death of the Saviour.

For me, as a sometime student of both Arabic and Latin, the use of Aramaic and Latin was very transparent. Most of the time, I really didn't need the subtitles. I couldn't follow very many verbs, but I *got* all the pronouns and particles, and a lot of nouns. Although I know this isn't true of 99+% of the people watching the film, the use of the original languages made it very real for me.

Gibson has done a great service in providing us with a film version of the Passion that has integrity, authority, and good craftsmanship. Beyond this, in making the film, he borne witness to the Truth that a lot of people in Hollywood and Manhattan would like to deny, avoid, or at least ignore.

In a way, this film is more Romantic in the sense of creative will than most of what usually for "artistic self-expression" in our culture. Ebert's comments are very much to the point:

Is the film "good" or "great?" I imagine each person's reaction (visceral, theological, artistic) will differ. I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what. To discuss individual performances, such as James Caviezel's heroic depiction of the ordeal, is almost beside the point. This isn't a movie about performances, although it has powerful ones, or about technique, although it is awesome, or about cinematography (although Caleb Deschanel paints with an artist's eye), or music (although John Debney supports the content without distracting from it).

It is a film about an idea. An idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion if Christianity is to make any sense. Gibson has communicated his idea with a singleminded urgency. Many will disagree. Some will agree, but be horrified by the graphic treatment.
The other day my good friend Charles Robison called me up and informed that he heard in the news that there is a guy named Joshua Wiley in Columbus, Ohio who was trying to get married . . . to another guy. He, jokingly wanted to make sure it wasn't me. Now, I do suppose that there are lots of Joshua Wileys in the world, but this guy happens to be from Columbus, Ohio too. Just so there is no confusion, I am Joshua Nathaniel Wiley and this guy is Joshua Jacob Wiley:

"It's so easy for people who have something to tell others they can't have it," said Christopher Hoffman, who was turned away in Columbus with his partner of 16 months, Joshua Jacob Wiley. "We don't want to be `domestic partners.' We want to be husbands."

Now just how do you satirize this, anyways?
For a really beautiful image of the Martian desert, see this picture from Spirit.

For a really beautiful image of the Lord of the Rings, see this image from Cassini.



Marsha and I are now living in the Akron, Ohio area.

I want a bumper sticker that says, "My girl is a graduate student at Kent State University." (Either that or "Get with the progam . . .")

I am sick with a upper respiratory bug which has caused several pints of phlegm to leave my body. Oh, well . . . buh-bye!

Work is . . . well, very interesting.

I am finally reading and digesting some of Ockham's nonpolitical stuff.

I am almost out of the chocolates we brought back from Paris. :(


Fiorina and Medieval Studies

Somehow I found a reference to the fact that HP's current CEO is not only a law school dropout rebel but also holds a B.A. in Medieval History and Philosophy from Stanford. This quote is actually pretty interesting:

The most valuable class I took at Stanford was not Econ 51. It was a graduate seminar called, believe it or not, "Christian, Islamic and Jewish Political Philosophies of the Middle Ages."

Each week, we had to read one of the great works of medieval philosophy: by Aquinas, Bacon, Abelard. These were huge texts - it seemed like we were reading 1,000 pages every week. And by the end of the week, we had to distill their philosophical discourse into two pages.

The philosophies and ideologies themselves certainly left an impression on me. But the rigor of the distillation process, the exercise of refinement, that's where the real learning happened.

* * *

I was on my way to law school, and I was quaking in my boots.

I was going, not because it was a lifelong dream, or because I imagined I could change the world, but because I thought it was expected of me. I thought I owed it to my family, especially my father-a Stanford law professor, a Duke law school dean, a 9th circuit federal judge- not because he'd ever said so, but because I'd assumed it to be true.

So off I went to law school in the fall. And from the start, it left me cold. I barely slept those first three months. I had a blinding headache every day. And I can tell you exactly which shower tile I was staring at in my parent's bathroom when I came home for a weekend and it hit me like a bolt of lightning: It's my life. I can do what I want.

Interesting. That's pretty much the way I feel about what I learned with Dr. Moye and Alexandras Shtromas, and what I wished I too had done during the first semester of law school. LOL


What does it mean, "My kingdom is not of this world"?

Dante sounds so contemporary:

3. Forma autem Ecclesie nichil aliud est quam vita Cristi, tam in dictis quam in factis comprehensa : vita enim ipsius ydea fuit et exemplar militantis Ecclesie, presertim pastorum, maxime summi, cuius est pascere agnos et oves. 4. Unde ipse in Iohanne formam sue vite relinquens "Exemplum" inquit "dedi vobis, ut quemadmodum ego feci vobis, ita et vos faciatis"; et spetialiter ad Petrum, postquam pastoris offitium sibi commisit, ut in eodem habemus, "Petre", inquit "sequere me". 5. Sed Cristus huiusmodi regimen coram Pilato abnegavit: "Regnum" inquit" meum non est de hoc mundo; si ex hoc mundo esset regnum meum, ministri mei utique decertarent ut non traderer Iudeis; nunc autem regnum meum non est hinc". 6. Quod non sic intelligendum est ac si Cristus, qui Deus est, non sit dominus regni huius; cum Psalmista dicat "quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et aridam fundaverunt manus eius"; sed quia, ut exemplar Ecclesie, regni huius curam non habebat.

De Monarcha
, 3.14.

Although I am quite familiar with the ecclesiastical property and hierocratic debates of the 13th and 14th centuries, I read this today and was a little taken aback by just current it sounds.
Now that's a Film!

There is progress in the publishing after all. Recently, a cluster of my favorite films have been released in splendidly crisp DVD editions:

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

The Regle du Jeu edition is probably the nicest, with a really wonderful transfer. I had previously seen it and the Antonioni on aged, blurry VHS only. The transfer in the Bergman is very good as well.

Persona haunts me. I remember when I first saw it (thanks to Michael Anderson): I felt like the victim of a cruel psychological prank, perhaps bordering on rape. That was about 10 viewing ago. I remember a prof of mine once being quoted as saying that, after many viewings, he still did not understand what L'Avventura. While I no longer feel that way about my favorite Antonioni, it does pretty much sum up the ineffable ambiguities that inhere in Ingmar Bergman's greatest film.

The color in Blowup is quite remarkable. Certainly more effective than that in Il Deserto Rosso. Of course, it does lack Monica Vitti (surely one of the most muselike actresses to ever grace the screen) and I can't help but see a bit of Gladiator's senator in David Hemmings. Overall, a pretty remarkable film, and one that can't help but grow on you.

The 1939 Renoir is as "classical" as film can get. While I idiosyncratically prefer the Romantic expanses of Vertigo or L'Avventura or Jules et Jim, Regle du Jeu stands as an equal triumph of auteurism, not by virtue of its prophecies or its egomanic vision, but on its strength of construction, its elegance of bittersweet wit, its perfect melding of the comic and the tragic, and by reason of its truth--even more than those other epics of the ennui or the Liebstod--to human life.

I do need to take Marsha to see the Passion. But, quite frankly, we've both been avoiding it. I wonder why?