Thursday, November 15

This is turning out to be a simply gorgeous day. It's currently sunny and 67 degrees outside. Around noontime, Joseph and I took a turn around the park (about three miles), soaking in the sun before it disappears for four months. He loves being outside. Early on, Michael noticed that Joseph could be instantly quieted by being taken outdoors - something about the change in air and the riot of shapes and colors, I suppose. Now that he's older (7 months), he just enjoys looking at things outside. We were out walking for an hour, and he didn't make a sound, and didn't bother with the toys on the tray of his stroller, either. He sat straight up, just looking around. That is, until the last half-block, when fatigue overtook him (it's tough work being pushed in a stroller), and his little head fell forward, resting on the tray as he succumbed to the dreaded nap.

Katie doesn't have school tomorrow, so she's having a friend over to spend the night, which means less sleep than usual for me...

The Crusades are getting a lot of attention and reconsideration these days, but I can't join the bandwagon. Yes, I agree that the Crusades were, in their beginnings at least, a defensive war against Muslim aggression. Most modern people don't understand how quickly Islam spread, mostly thanks to the sword, in its early years, pressing over the centuries even to Vienna.

But I think its facile to ignore the almost instantaneous perversions of whatever small moral core that justified the Crusades, turning the ventures into bloodthirsty, greed-soaked looting sprees. If you want to read more positive assessments, go here and here.

J-Franz comes through over the powers of Oprah. Yes, Jonathan Franzen won the National Book Award for The Corrections. Speculation on the award had run high...The Corrections was obviously the "big book" of the year, but since J-Franz had dissed Oprah and the NBA (not the basketball guys, the book guys) had given Oprah a special award two years ago for her contributions to literacy, would the trickle effect run against J-Franz for his disrespect to Queen of the Book Clubs and Maker of Half a Million Instant Sales? Guess not. Perhaps quality actually had something to do with the award - I hadn't read all of the nominees, but I had read Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse which was a pretentious mess, so if that's indicative of the nature of the nominees, I'd say J-Franz deserved to win - The Corrections at least attempted to hook into reality.

Here's the NYTimes report on the awards, including an account of Franzen's inability to avoid self-pity even in an acceptance speech, and Steve Martin's (the host of the ceremony) kind offer to put the Oprah's Book Club stickers that so offended Franzen on his books instead.

Today's a day for British blesseds. We remember several British monks today who were martyred during Henry VIII's Mondo Monastery Grab. They refused to give up church property (including relics) to the king's men, and for their trouble, they were generally hung, drawn and quartered. John Thorne was one, John Rugg another. More are cited here. Despite the success of our current and past alliances with the British, and my adoration of the likes of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope and George Eliot, these stories of martrydom prompt me to confess my always-simmering anti-British sentiments. It's all from the French blood, of course, which makes up half of mine. When MIchael and I were driving through Ontario on our way up to Montreal, I found myself constantly but deeply irritated by the historical markers denoting the triumphs of the "Loyalists" along the way. Loyalists who deported the Acadians from Nova Scotia... I grumbled. Loyalists of the British government that oppressed and persecuted Catholics until the 19th century.... I continued to grumble.

I'm trying to read a couple of books on the English Reformation. One's an historical novel, out of print and in storage in the library, but widely praised in its time (the 1950's) called Man on a Donkey by H.F.M Prescott, and the other a new book by historian Eamon Duffy called The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village, which is an account of the Reformation and post-Reformation years through the eyes of a parish priest who kept a detailed and meticulous journal of the doings of his village.

Today is also the feastday of Albertus Magnus, teacher of Thomas Aquinas, and great scientist and scholar in his own right.

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