Friday, June 20, 2008

The Fulcrum of Civilization

That's what they used to call the opposable thumb. You know, they were right. I've been trying to do without my right thumb for a couple of weeks. A remarkable number of simple tasks become nearly impossible without the lowly thumb. Try tying your shoes without a thumb. Go ahead. I dare you. It takes forever.

I'm still not entirely sure how I did it, but somehow I managed to tear off about a fourth of my right thumbnail. I used to wonder if the legendary bamboo-shoots-up-the-fingernails was really all that painful. I think I have a pretty fair idea now and I'm giving full marks in the torture sweepstakes to the fingernail gimmick. If the Shining Path or Al Q'aeda or the ACLU ever really want me cough up any state secrets I might happen to know just threaten my fingernails. I'll spill it all. Might even make up a few if it'll help.

And it's not just the accident itself. Every time I tap that thumb against something even fairly lightly the pain is seriously swear word inducing. Which puts a major crimp in typing. I'm a touch typist who learned on an old manual. I've gone from a manual, to an electric, to a word processor to a computer but I still hammer the daylights out the keyboard just as if it were our old Underwood. When I sat down to type at the pc that day, the first time the thumb hit the space bar Mary had to come into the office and peel me off the ceiling with a spatula. Boy, howdy. It brushes away the old cobwebs, lemme tell ya.

The only plus is that you don't need a fully-functional right thumb to play the Highland pipes. It only serves to balance the chanter; it doesn't have any notes to play. Screwing the chanter into the stock is another issue. But thank God for small favours. I can't afford to be giving away any more gigs.

Monday, June 09, 2008

9 June -- St Columcille

Today is the feast of St Columcille, a.k.a. St Columba, "the Apostle of Scotland and the bearer of culture and Christianity to Iona and Scotland (and indirectly to all of northern England)" as Mrs D'Arcy phrases it. He was "great, great grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, founder of the dynasty of Ulster kings that continued until 1610. On his mother's side were Leinster kings. Three of his cousins became monarchs of Ireland."

There is much on the web about him. The old Catholic Encyclopædia has this and the Wikipedia this.

Monarchists may note that:

The first Christian inauguration of a sovereign of record in history and the precedent for the coronation ceremonies of Westminster Abbey, is Colmcille's consecration of Aidan, King of the Irish colony in Scotland. Thus auspiciously he launched the king from whose line came Kenneth MacAlpine crowned at Scone the first Irish king of all Scotland. Malcolm Canmore who in 1093, laid the foundations of the Cathedral of Durham as it now stands; Alexander III, 1249-1286, the last Irish king of Scotland.

His collect in the traditional Roman Rite:

Cordibus nostris, quæsumus Domine, cælestis gloriæ inspira desiderium, et præsta: ut in dextris illuc feramus manipulos iustitiæ: ubi tecum sanctus coruscat Abbas Columba. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum. . . Amen.

The Baronius Missal translation:

Infuse into our hearts, we pray Thee, O Lord, a longing for heavenly splendour: that, holding in our right hands the sheaves of justice, we may go thither where the holy Abbot Columba shineth brilliantly with Thee. Through our Lord. Amen.

[Quotes not otherwise attributed are from Mary Ryan D'Arcy's very useful "The Saints of Ireland; A Chronological Account of the Lives and Works of Ireland's Saints and Missionaries at Home and Abroad"]

Friday, June 06, 2008

Southern Piping

If you happen to be anywhere near the town of my birth this weekend in the first State of the Confederacy, the Greenville area is holding its annual Highland Games.

G'wan. Bring an ice chest and brave the heat.

And say "hi" to Jimmy Bell.

6 June -- St Jarlath

Today is the feast of St Jarlath in the calendar proper to Ireland. I rather think he ought to be the patron of those with cars broken down by the side of the freeway. And of flat tires. Oh, yes, definitely flat tires.

Mrs D'Arcy says of St Jarlath:

The prelates of Tuam wear a ring engraved with a broken chariot wheel, Jarlath's chariot wheel of 1400 years ago. Still further back, the saint's ancestry is traced to Fergus MacRoy, the warrior romanticized into Irish epic literature.

Patrick taught Benin and Benen taught Jarlath and placed him at Clonfuis. Jarlath's pupils there numbered Brendan the Navigator and Colman MacLenini, later of Cloyne. Brendan told Jarlath he was not to remain at Clonfuis but should go eastward and where his chariot wheel should break, there was to build his church. It broke at Tuam.

And that is indeed supposed to be the very wheel at the top.

The site of his church is now the Church of Ireland Cathedral, which was extensively rebuilt in the 19th century, but still contains elements of a prior rebuilding in the 12th century by King Turlough O'Conor.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Yes, the post that was here is now gone.

The recommendation it made was done at the behest of a friend who usually has better insight.

Now that I've had a chance to read some of the site that was recommended, I'm mortified that it received on unqualified recommendation at this venue. I apologize to anyone who wasted time on it.

"Come awa', Maister Horner, come awa', and help us to hang ane o' thae daamed scoondrels!"

So famously said Lord Braxfield, judge of the Scottish bench, to one of his jurors during the political trials of 1793 and 1794.

The lot of the impartial juror has improved considerably since then but it's still not my favourite thing to do. But that's what last week was devoted to. (Insofar, of course, as I can be said to "do" it at all, since I am absolutely never impaneled. Neither counsel seems to want another JD on the panel and when they learn how often I play pipes for various and sundry police agencies, defense counsel can't get rid of me fast enough.) Still, it's a week for which nothing can be planned and all my engagements have to be given away to someone else. If you're really interested in the details of jurying in Los Angeles County, you can find out here. No. I didn't think you would be. But part of blogging is providing those links.

What really was worth the price of admission was the voir dire. We had 18 folks being queried and perhaps a dozen of them were trying desperately to convince whoever might be willing to excuse them that were far too prejudiced ever to be fair to the defendant. Apparently grandma had had her credit card number stolen. And the brother had his truck broken into. And this other one was personally fed to the teeth with crime. And on and on. One person's English was so bad she couldn't possibly follow a trial in English with all those big words. She was a bank executive and had been in the country for 35 years. The poor soul sitting next to me really did have almost no English. He didn't even have enough to explain that he didn't really know what was going on. He just agreed with whatever was asked of him. I hope for the sake of justice they let him off but I don't really know. They got rid of me first even though I explained that I have led a charmed life, unscarred by rampant crime, and that I am a paragon of fairness.

Helpful legal hints: If you're ever assigned to the Norwalk Superior Court, you can get a tolerable cup of coffee in the ground floor snack bar to tide you over the morning and a couple of sandwich places just south of the court house and across the street provide a cheap lunch.


The First of June: the first day of the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; in the traditional Roman Rite, the feast of St Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Nuns; in the sanctoral cycle of the Pauline Rite the feast of St Justin Martyr; and according to my still relatively new Baronius Press Missal, the feast of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces in the English and Welsh dioceses of Hexham, Newcastle, Cardiff, and Menevia.

But the Mass today was for the third Sunday after Pentecost, and as it's the first Sunday of the month, it was celebrated at my new favourite indult-Mass venue, the Chapel of Claretian residence at the old Dominguez Rancho. The grounds, the buildings, the chapel -- all of it is a feast of beauty. I've rummaged around the web for a while looking for some good pictures but found nothing that comes very close. Most of the pictures are of the heavily restored rancho. Little or nothing of the seminary/retirement facilty itself. Here, though, are a few old black and white pictures that give a taste.

These are from the Cal State University Dominguez Hills archives that show something of the chapel. The main altar has been reduced in size since these shots were taken and there is a new altar further forward but it is still quite serviceable for ad orientem celebrations. And the altar rail is now gone. But side altars to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been added that the pictures don't show. The feel of the chapel is still devotional. And, dare I say, traditional.

The Sanctuary

Mass in the chapel in 1927 (an ordination perhaps?)

The view from the altar