Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Sunday, December 07, 2003  


"Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting but rare; goodness apt to be weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day. But the world as it stands is no illusion, no phantasm, no evil dream of a a night; we wake up to it again for ever and ever; we can neither forget it nor deny it nor dispense with it. We can welcome experience as it comes, and give it what it demands, in exchange for something which it is idle to pause to call much or little so long as it contributes to swell the volume of consciusness. In this there is mingled pain and delight, but over the mysterious mixture there hovers a vgisible rule, that bids us learn to will and seek to understand."

Henry James -- Ivan Turgenieff

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:38 AM |

Today's Quote:

Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680)

Is it possible to be more cynical than the above? I don't think so.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:22 AM |

Cheech and Chong

I listened to the duo above in the 60's while under their influence of cannibas as joy routines. Now Tommy Chong is in jail or going to for selling bongs and paraphenalia under his name and website.

Some conservatives (yes, you Andrew Stuttaford) suggest that this is unfair , but I have no sympathy. Tommy Chong tried to make a buck from inducing people to trust him that pot was fine, okay, dandy, a good thing; which is a bunch of bull.

Tommy was pimping for something bad, and got busted. Let him sit in jail. A 65 year old man ought to know better.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:36 AM |

And yet...

(See blog below) if I watch a John Wayne movie, I find very little to find fault with.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:19 AM |

The Enemy Below

I watched a movie on cable the other day which I hadn't seen for years. It was a 1957 WW2 movie called The Enemy Below with Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens.

It's a submarine vs. Destroyer movie, and a good one, but I was taken aback by the philosophy of the film.

This is 12 years after the war when it was made. The German U Boat captain is presented as a sympathetic, war and world weary man who has no love for Hitler. He's simply doing his duty as an officer.

Robert Mitchum plays a former Merchant Marine captain whose English wife was killed when his ship was sunk by a U Boat, who transferred to the Navy and commands a destroyer.

In a conversation with the ship's doctor (foreshadowing the shades of Dr. McCoy?), he professes to having no animosity to the Germans who killed his wife (in an unemotional manner he relates his tale as if that could be possible for a manly man who won't shed a tear recalling how his wife was killed while he watched).

In the course of the movie both captains make a single mistake which leads to the destruction of each's vessel, with the American captain saving the German captain (and friend who subsequently dies).

At the end, both captains are budy-budy as if the shared experience of war, and sympathy for the adversary overcomes all other emotions.

When I watched this movie as a child, I thought how noble and wonderful are warriors who share the same sort of fate -- that is, who knows which will win on a given day or battle, but the ethos of fulfilling one's duty is equal. (I learned this from Homer at an early age.)

But watching this movie now, I am astonished that the scriptwriter could dare to make WW2 a matter of moral equivalence. I can accept that both captains are good guys, but I can't accept that the American captain doesn't hate his enemy.

This is like saying that Pres. Bush doesn't hate Osama Bin Ladin or Saddam Hussein. That somehow they are identical as commanders and leaders. In one sense, you could say it's true. You have one leader of a people against one leader of another people.

But this is BS. It is like saying the Devil is the same as Christ because they both lead factions and groups who have their own interests.

I wonder if this movie was a kind of harbinger of the leftist - we're all wrong until we are one world - kind of thing.

The 60's established in the West the idea that America and Russia were simply two sides of the same coin. People in Europe actually insisted that there wasn't any real difference between America and Russia. That we had identical goals, but opposite philosophies which made us adversaries.

People on the Left assumed that the Cold War was all about power, when it was all about freedom.

For many stupid people, they would like to see our current war against terrorism as an equivalence between Christian faith and Muslim faith (two irrational and non-sensical things); or rather that Christian civilization is not unblemished, and ought to be abolished as an anachronistic extravagance which intelligent and sane people can dispense with.

Interestingly enough, the doctor in conversation with the American captain tries to oppose the captain's nihilism (which sees war as inevitable, and constant as the Greeks did) with a holy notion that war will eventually be eliminated as a human action. He finds faith in the future -- war is bad and humanity will outgrow it.

Was it possible for Hollywood screenwriters and producers to be this naive at that time? I guess so, since so many are still convinced that war is some weird anomaly of human nature, and that we're all meant to live in utopian peace -- any day now real soon. (The vapor-ware of intellectuals.)

On Earth, war in inevitable and will never cease, and the enemy is always hateful.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:55 AM |

Friday, December 05, 2003  

Pick a Peck of pickled peppers

Kevin Holtsberry has an interesting blog on the novelist and critic, Dale Peck.

I read all the links, particularly The New Republic article of his.

I was struck by one of the concluding sentences: "Semiotically, syntactically, at the level of the sign and the level of the sentence, from which all narrative proceeds, language waters the seeds of its own failure."

As a writer of fiction, I am interested in what intelligent people think about it. Shop talk about it piques my curiosity, too.

The article is basically a diatribe against modern fiction and its precursors in the 20th century like Joyce's Ulysses. That's fine, but I have to wonder, when I consider any artist who is faithless, why they ever expect that the sand won't cease to shift under them no matter what they do?

Peck adds finally: But only after a work of literature has accepted its own failure--has, as it were, elegized its stillborn self--can it begin the complex series of contextual manipulations by which meaning is created and we locate ourselves as surely as the ancient navigators fixed their positions between stars...Contemporary novels have either counterfeited reality or forfeited it. In their stead we need a new materialism.

A new materialism? Where shall he go and find such a thing? He can't. There are only so many materialistic ways of looking at a rock or an ant. His complaint is that of Ecclessiates - vanity of vanities, all is vanity. He has run out of perspectives. Only he is not about to despair, but to keep griping.

Let's look at Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son. This is pure fiction. Exactly where does the language of this fiction "water the seeds of its own failure."? Where does the reader or listener slap his forehead and say - "I get it, now! It's all just another meaningless metaphor about life!"

Here we have a fiction that speaks to a primary difficulty of human being in a transformative way. But Peck writes: "Real fiction does not "discover" truth, let alone present it to readers: real fiction invents and dispenses with truth as it sees fit. That's why it's called fiction. "

But real fiction can uncover truth. To not know this is to live with a basic disgust of beauty.

What does literature come down to anyway? People like to hear stories. They must have meaning in order to be enjoyed. Where do we find the meaning? In the words, the signs and symbols, or the plot? Obviously, in all those elements.

I keep forgetting what it's like to be faithless, though, and having to keep trying to extract meaning from a meaningless life. Words are the most meaningful things we have, in actuality. We can't think without them. Without thinking, there is no meaning.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:55 AM |

Thursday, December 04, 2003  

Today's Quote:

Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:50 PM |

Resistance is futile

Slow motion assimilation of a a parking sign by a tree here.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:30 PM |


I saw this article at Drudge yesterday, and said - ho hum, more of the same solipsism of idiot artists.

A film student wanted to film two other students having sex in the classroom while the class watched, and then cut the movie with mundane scenes like the two chatting, or eating. The professor agreed, but then thought to ask the officials if this was proper.

Negative, he was told. Film student then complains about censorship.

My point is not about the tawdry ordinariness of this typical liberal madness, nor that of artists not having a clue as to what art is or for, but that this statement: "This is where you unfold as a creative artist," Ms. Carmicino, 21, said. "You need people to bounce your ideas off of, or else you won't evolve as an artist."
This is pure pretension.

When I was a lad in junior college taking creative writing and other courses, I was a wannabe artist. I was an apprentice at best. Only a working master had the right to call himself an "artist ". Somebody who actually produced work that other people paid for or supported in numbers great enough to distinguish between a cult and an audience was an artist. Nor being a grant hustler, a member of an academic ghetto, or dilettante qualified one for applause.

And the idea for a juvenile that to be "serious" is to be uglier, filthier, nastier in order to be more provocative than other sophomoric wannabes is simply bathetic.

I'm not asking God to smite such fools, but, Oh, that life would. That such pinheaded adolescents would enter a real world that slapped them around some, and knocked their silly ideas and personas loose.

But that's not what happens. These "artistes" usually go on to work in some foundation, at a museum, continue in academia, serve in a non-profit grant writing machine, join a bureaucracy, and form a "school" of art.

They may not make a lot of money, but they move and live in a cushy, self-referential world which no real men inhabit - just wimps, wonks, manipulators, opportunists, users, and seducers.

I've seen such people live entire long lives with the same sophomoric notions and slogans of the world that they had at 15. You are stunned that people can live so long and have learned nothing!

Just another example, I suppose, of how prosperity corrupts.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:35 PM |

American Food

One thing I like about being an American is that I have no qualms about trying things from around the world, and then making them American.

When I was in Italy once, my wife and I stayed in prima classa hotel (first class) in Ancona. They offered a "Continental breakfast" which consisted of a tiny, dry croissant, some jelly and toast.

I noticed that foreign food there was either lousy or non-existent. It's as if Italians didn't want to eat the good food of the French and vice versa, whereas I could get the best of everything in America from every country.

Same in Greece and Crete where we lived for three months. You couldn't get good foreign food. They mangled the idea of hamburger and fries (though the gyros were great). Same with pizza, English breakfasts, and so forth.

For some reason these cultures resisted assimilating good things from elsewhere. (Yes, I know McDonald's and Pizza Hut are there in the major cities, but the people didn't learn how to cook good hamburgers and pizzas, eat good croissants, and so forth.)

The insularity surprised me since it's not like they don't have much contact with foreign culture. It's all right there around them.

Anyway, I say this because a few years ago I discovered the Vietnamese staple called pho. (It's pronounced - fuh, but I'm not going to say that; so I call it what it looks like and now a lot of Vietnamese do too.)

Some people reduce this dish to the banal - beef noodle soup. That's like saying Marilyn Monroe was a blonde.

Pho is a stock made from beef bones boiled for hours with a number of spices like ginger, anise, and so forth. It is served with rice noodles nesting in the bottom of a big bowl. Paper thin onion slices float on the broth. It can come with varieties of thin sliced beef, raw or cooked, or with sausage or meatballs; and many other variations.

A dish is brought with herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges, sliced jalapenos, thai basil. You add what you like and eat it, drink it, season it, and love it. It is delicious (and incredibly cheap - $2.50 -$4.50 a bowl depending on size.

But my favorite Pho shop went out of business, so I have been reduced to creating my own concoction I call phony pho which only takes an hour to make, is based on chicken stock with hot Italian sausage slices added among a number of aromatic and peppery things.

I made it tonight and it was simply delicious. It's not pho, but for what it is, it is great. It is now part of my repertoire along with a few Indian dishes, Italian, Mexican, Thai, and a whole variety of mongrel recipes and ideas I've picked up.

All because I'm an American in a country where we search out the best anyone has to offer, and freely adopting it if it's good.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:45 AM |

Middle Eastern Video

I got this link from Lileks quite awhile ago. He and Gnat are trying to figure out this fellow's dance gesture of sewing his nipple.

But his home made video, a la Bollywood (minus the extras), is quite enchanting. He looks like he's having a blast.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:18 AM |

One chord

Ignore the group's name (you bas****) and listen to this tune - One Chord Song.

Only, that is, if you've ever been curious as to what a one chord song would actually sound like (although Bob Dylan often leaned upon a single chord for great lengths of time).

It is rather amusing to hear this, and see just how limiting one chord can be.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:11 AM |


Being a soldier in the Roman Empire was one of the best situations a free man could be in. He was rarely in battle (more regularly garrisoned), he had a good salary, free medical care (the best in the world at the time), he lived in barracks or with his family, ate regularly and was looked after. In retirement, he was often granted land to settle a new town (and act as an army auxiliary in the province to keep the peace).

The Roman soldier was one of the healhiest, and longer living of people in the world then.

Most soldiers in the later empire were not Roman citizens, but men from Spain, Gaul, Syria, Britain, and so forth.

Today, I'm wondering if we will ever see a draft army again in America. We have many foreign men serving in our armed forces who are assured of citizenship when completing their terms of enlistment; and we keep ratcheting up the benefits to our own people to induce them to serve or re-enlist.

Now, our soldiers aren't overpaid, but there will come a time when we will have to remedy that as the men of the armed forces see their value -- that they aren't that easy to replace.

At what point do men become mercenary and not patriots? We are far from that point, but it looms on a distant horizon, I fear. How many of us actually know a soldier presently stationed in Iraq or elsewhere? I have a friend of a friend who have a son in Iraq, but I don't know any soldiers personally.

That's true for a great many Americans, I think. Our people of the armed forces have become a rather small sub-culture. That was always true when we were between wars until after WW2, when we began to maintain a large defense capability. But for a decade we've been downsizing the military since we can do more now with fewer people.

Well, the processes of life and societies keeps carrying us along, and times will change everything; yet it is remarkable how similarly those processes re-occur. I'd always hoped it wouldn't happen to the US.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:04 AM |

Wednesday, December 03, 2003  

I like this painting

for no other reason than it strikes me as interesting. See if you think this work of art by Matt Andrade is compelling at all.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:23 AM |

Today's Quote:

If you would be known, and not know, vegetate in a village; If you would know, and not be known, live in a city.

Charles Caleb Colton (1780 - 1832)

Hmm, I lived in a small town, and was not known very well, but I knew a great deal because I devoured libraries and studied my neighbors. But otherwise a fair generality.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:13 AM |

Tuesday, December 02, 2003  

Things I don't get

Some political pinhead in Nevada recently criticized Pres. Bush's pronunciation of the state's name. I kept waiting to hear exactly how a Texan might mangle it. I thought it might be funny since someone made a big case out of it.

But what he said was -- Neh-vah-da rather than -- Neh-vaa-da.

He pronounced it exactly the way I do, and the way I always hear it said here in California.

I did get in slight trouble when I worked in Oregon one year for saying - Or-ri-gahn instead of their preferred -- Or-ri-gin.

I still go back and forth with that. Always forgetting which one I prefer.

Some people, though. Sheesh.

Now, I grew up in Connecticut, and while having lost my New England accent, I still tend to lengthen my A's. I prefer ont to ant. I-ther to Ee-ther. I say Ah-monds and not aa-mens or Ay-mens (which is the Cal. way). But I say To-may-to, for some reason.

Until she died, my mother could say to me - "Mahk, pahk the cah in the yahd." It was hilarious to hear her yell at the dogs, " No bahking! No bahking!"

posted by Mark Butterworth | 6:46 PM |

Today's Quote:

We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.

Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662)

Sad, but true. Do we ever respect Truth enough to be persuaded by the compelling arguments of others? Rarely, I think. If only I had followed this insight before engaging in fruitless arguments with the lost and beknighted. (But as a parent, you always want to help any child you see who is about to hurt himself; even though that child may curse you out for interferring.)

Why be a man when you can be a success?

Bertolt Brecht (1898 - 1956)

Hmm, let's see, Bertold, are you speaking of yourself here? A communist, who, when confronted with Stalin's horrors decided not to renounce him and communism because you wanted your work to live on after your death. How very manly.

Also, in escaping Nazism, you didn't flee to the Worker's Paradise of the Soviet Union, but came where? To America, of course! The Capitalist Nightmare.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:33 PM |

Drunken Sailors

Lot of talk lately about Republican/Bush spending approximating that of drunken sailors. Some suggest this is unfair to drunken sailors who don't have that much money, and what they spend is their own, but you might want to look at this factoid of the past sent to me by my father:

Little Known Naval Facts

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men.

This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers).

However, let it be noted that according to her log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men,
48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum."

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum

Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England.

In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.

Then she headed home.

The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:25 PM |

Monday, December 01, 2003  

A conversion tale -- Witness for the Defense or Prosectution?

Every conversion story is like Paul's. I've posted mine on a new website, Arrows of Desire, in the hope that some may be edified, inspired, informed, or amazed (not by me, but by the actions of God).

One feature of this story is the description of three meetings where God directly manifested himself. This a fairly rare occurrence, and I thought some may wish to know what such events are like. I am not bragging about my blessings, but rather ashamed that He needed to win me with such overwhelming gestures -- that, in essence, I was so lost that only extraordinary measures could work on such a willfull being.

There is also a certain amount of trust involved on God's part, though. He has to trust that we will not abuse his revelation with crazy designs and interpretations of his will (such as many have from Mohammed to Joseph Smith to David Koresh -- all of whom may have experienced something of God's direct Presence or grace, only to make themselves "final" prophets of truth).

I have not betrayed that trust, although I was initially tempted. It's a heady thing when you see a burning bush, and God speaks to you. It makes you think you're special, and chosen for special tasks. Jesus certainly was, and Paul put his commission to positive work, but I was given no mandate other than to continue to seek to know Truth.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:03 AM |

Tied to the whippin' post

I keep promising myself that I won't engage in arguments with relativists and atheists, and yet I'll read a comment here or there in which I think a person has some capacity for reason, and become drawn in again to a futile disquisition.

I keep forgetting that the irreligious are emotionally disturbed people, bound to their opinions by negative experience and bad childhoods; that they cannot change their view based on reason, but suffer from distortions induced by a pyschological pathology.

Now, it is also true that there is a breed of religious people who are also disturbed by their upbringing, but they are the tiny minority.

So you have four classes of people. The religious, the secular, the militant irreligious, and the militant religious. The secular, in our age, aren't so hostile to the idea of religion and spirituality, as they are to religious people whom they see as typified by the extremely fundamental and scrupulous.

Of course, they see any seriously religious person as an extremist.

But the purely atheist, militantly irreligious is a class of itself, for its hostility to reason and faith (for faith is, of course, entirely rational) is based on a demented psychology.

The militant irrationalist believes that people of faith are the crazy ones, of course, who have a peculiar need to imagine a good daddy watching over them, yet what has atheism ever produced that was humanly worthwhile?

Nothing much (and an enormity of holocausts. See Nazism, Communism, and Fascism)

Are there any great atheists? Freud, Marx, Bertrand Russell, Bertold Brecht, Sartre? I can't think of a single atheist who has made a significantly positive contribution to humanity.

Anyway, I have to stop responding to people who's thoughts beg a comment. It really is pointless to hope that committed atheists can reason, since they can never define truth. Evasion, contradiction, and denial are the atheist's art.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:41 AM |