Sunday, December 11, 2011

God save the Queen

In a few days (what...four days already?) I will be in Merry Olde England. Come to think of it, Manchester is not exactly MOE because I associate that more with East Anglia. Or London. Maybe I'll take a picture of the Parliament Building when I go to London to replace my banner.

Anyway, this will be the defining moment of my life. This whole blog was conceived because of my love of England while still very much being American. I will finally be going home. In a way. Commence plan to become a Life-Peer.

I hope to enjoy it, but in a way, I miss my messy old Midwestern city. Especially the snow. And homemade American food.

I will let you know how it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What would you fight for? Or: In defense of Obeying the Drinking Age

We live in a world that almost prides itself in the amount of cracks in society. We may say "let's reach across the aisle" or "bipartisanship" (as if all issues boiled down to two sides. lol.) People often say "It's not so black and white as all that" which generally translated to "My grey is black and yours is white." Everybody wants to be right, which means that everyone else is wrong, right?

Perhaps.

The question I would like to ask is how worth it is it to fight al these fights? I, for one, am the most intelligent member of my class and so if you want to know what real architecture is, ask me. Also, you might as well ask me about politics because everyone else is idiots. Especially all those "Neo-Caths" that are just watered down liberals who want to seem conservative. Gosh, they're all such idiots.

We can only fight so many fights. I want to fight against Musical Abominations--I want to create Good Music. I want to fight against Architectural Crap--I want to design buildings worth their salt. I want to fight against Watered Down Secularized Crappy Education--I want to form a school. I have all these opinions, and who doesn't, you know? I think so much about all these things and then want to do something about them. That doesn't even close to approach the number of Bad Things in the world.

There's Abortion, The Death Penalty, Euthanasia, Poverty, Violence, Oppression, Greedy Bankers, Rapists, Puritans, alcoh--

What? Alcohol? Really?


Yes, there are some who make it their business to limit alcohol to minors. It sucks. As a sixteen-year old (and more especially at eighteen) I desired alcohol so much that I HAD to break the law because I couldn't control my desires. Alcohol is one of the highest goods. It brings merriment to parties and violence to domestic situations. Ok, so maybe that's not so good. Like all good things, alcohol can be and often is abused.

What about those other things that can be abused? Sex? Sure, there are a lot of perverts and rapists out there. What do we do about the abuse? How is society protected from these practices? Well, as we know, premarital sex is no longer off the table of acceptable practices. We expect our high schoolers to engage in it. I ask you, does this lowering of the acceptable age of sex cause more responsible love-making? Don't make me laugh. Or maybe it's just because they still have to do it in secret?

Another thing that can be abused: Gun Use. People Kills People, you know. How is society protected from this? People have to get licenses? Oh come on! You can buy a rifle at 18, but a pistol at 21? If we're adults at 18, why don't we get to use a pistol? It's just nonsensical.  Maybe if we let 12 year olds buy pistols all urban centers would see less violence.

So you see, the drinking age is unconstitutional. Or is it? I am in agreement with Mr. Barnes that responsible drinking in a good environment growing up is a good thing. He may not know this, but in Wisconsin, this is possible. Kids can drink if their parents give it to them. I also am for the lowering of the drinking age to 18 when most adult things are "allowed". I grew up in a household where the kids didn't drink. Ever. I had plenty of opportunity because there was alcohol in the house and I was alone some of the time. I could have sneaked some. I didn't however. I would attribute this less to my lack of desire for alcohol (I hardly cared about alcohol until coming to Italy, and I still don't. I care about good drinks, which is why I never buy the 1 euro wine boxes. Gross.) Instead I would attribute it to my good upbringing. My parents didn't make a big deal about alcohol either way. They were just clear about possible bad effects and good effects and told me what was acceptable in the house.

Not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a household that drinks responsibly. If society just allowed kids to drink whenever they were allowed by their parents, that wouldn't solve all the problems. Lowering the drinking age to 18 might make sense. I think it does. But I don't think 21 is an unreasonable age, and I especially don't think it's worth getting all het up about it. We have a lot of battles to fight, and I think the more important one is getting the family back in shape. Before we let kids drink, we'd better have a good environment or them to do it in. This is a fight I'd rather fight. Civil Disobedience is like salt. Delicious and to be used sparingly. I will just contentedly not drink when I return to the US until I am 21. I don't think I care enough to care.

Friday, November 25, 2011

European Travels of an American Expatriate

Here is the entry of my (nonexistent) diary. I must say, I have never had such an urge to write down my experiences. That must mean I've finally had some.

"Woke up at 0530 today, Thursday, Thanksgiving, I guess in some places. I had had a scare at 0115 when I realized I didn’t have my Go Pass for the B-train in Belgium. I had left it in studio. Fortunately, studio is open until 0200. Anyway, I got ready to go, finished packing, tidied the room a bit and headed out. Reaching the bus stop at precisely 0600, I hopped aboard the 64 a Termini. I planned to be there by 0630 and reached the station at 0609. Who knew that it was a nine minute ride? Once at Termini, I looked around for the shuttle stop so that I could catch the 0630 shuttle to Ciampino Airport. I didn’t see it. Instead I went over to the Self Help Ticket Kiosk to see if I could get my ticket (it was supposed to be 8 Euro). I discovered once there that I could get a train ticket to Ciampino for 1.30. Better deal? I thought so. I started to buy the ticket when a man stopped me. Although my Italian isn’t stellar, he made himself understood. I needed to switch machines because the machine I was using only took cards. I duly switched to the Kash Kiosk. 
At 0632, the treno urbano took off for Ciampino. Unfortunately, the joke was one me. It took me not to the Airport, but rather to the center of the small city of Ciampino outside of which is the airport itself. Thinking that my day really couldn’t afford to start like this, I started walking, following the signs to the Airport (I thought it might be close since I saw an airport from the train). I didn’t want to take the expensive shuttle if I didn’t have to. As it turned out, it wasn’t close. What was close was a military airbase. Haha. I was about to give up when I saw a sign for an airport parking lot. I thought “This must be it.” I crossed the busy street, threading my way through numerous insane Italian drivers and entered what looked like a Auto Salvage Lot. From the 50s. And not used since then. As I walked past the  building, I noticed a man inside eating a cornetto. Lucky. I had forgotten my oranges at the hotel. He called to me and I asked him, “Dove il ingresso d’aerport?” He sort of laughed. He gave me directions and I thanked him. He then said “You shouldn’t walk, it’s 2 kilometers. I’ll be taking the shuttle there in about 5-10 minutes.” He told me to wait in the shuttle. While I was there, another Shuttleist arrived and they had a typical Italian exchange of buffeting blows and wisecracks while I watched from the shuttle. Then a family pulled up in a car, Father, Mother, Daughter. On the way to the airport, I believe they talked about me in Italian. Not that I would know. As I said, my Italian isn’t in any way stellar. 
I reached the Airport at around 0730. My flight was scheduled for 0855, so I thought “I don’t have a minute to spare. I am a foreigner. They will probably frisk me.” Fortunately, I had not brought anything that would turn the detectors on, so I was safe. One thing I will never understand is why people from places other than the US in positions of some authority (such as female airline personnel) will say “bye-bye” when you are done with your exchange. Is it that we seem like babies trying to use the Italian system? Is it because I’m just abnormally baby-like? To I exude lack of confidence? Well as a matter of fact, as I later learned, yes. When I reached the correct gate (Gate 12, to be exact), I purchased a prosciutto pizza. And Gum. I started on the pizza and discovered that whoever had made it didn’t know what “prosciutto” means nor “pizza” and we were in Italy! The prosciutto refused to go down well and the crust was probably 76% salt. With salt sprinkled on top. In short, it was awful. I got some water to wash it down. When the time came to board, a young man asked me “Charleroi?” and at that moment I realized that I was American. I had never said it out loud. It threw me off. Oh. French? Oh snap. I responded “Charleroi? Si.” In perfect Franc-Italian. It made me feel a little better. Then, the woman next to me in line asked me in english, “Do you know what the weather will be in Brussels?” I responded “I have no idea.” I should have said “Non lo so” which is the correct Italian response. It made me feel worse again. She had forgotten her umbrella. Oh dear. “Well,” I thought. “It can’t be MUCH different from here, right?” Well, wrong, but I didn’t know that yet. 
We boarded the plane, and it took off around on time. I couldn’t tell you precisely when because like a good temporary citizen of the EU, I turned off my cell phone before take off. Obviously the flight was uneventful. I slept for part of it. However, we touched down in time. I know this because they played a fanfare and announced how great Ryanair was for having the most on time flights in Europe. Lol. Next on the agenda was getting to Charleroi Sud station to catch the train to Brugge. I had considered walking at one time (it was only 1.5 hours by foot, no?), but I abandoned that idea. I decided instead to take the bus, or whatever took me there in the cheapest quickest fashion. I asked a French speaking airline employee. Oh. French. Oh snap. This was the second time I was realizing that maybe this was a poor decision to go to a foreign country all by myself where they spoke not one but two languages that I have little to no experience in. I understand some French, but nothing substantial and I most certainly can’t really speak it. And there’s a difference between understanding a language in theory and understanding it in practice. Fortunately, I was saved by the fact that this airline employee spoke English. He directed me to the bus to Charleroi station. I walked toward is and as I tried to enter, the driver motioned me forward. I thought “Oh, he means ‘take the bus in front of me.’” Well, he didn’t. I asked the driver of the bus in front of him “A Charleroi Sud?” In perfect French. He motioned me forward. I saw that the original bus had pulled up the bus stop. Ok, so he was just moving. I got ready to hand over my arm and maybe my leg to pay for the bus, but as it turned out, it was only 3 Euro. 
As we drove through the city of Charleroi (an outer suburb of Brussels, I guess? They at least share an airport), I realized why I preferred the North of Europe to the South. I would call Charleroi the “Manchester of Belgium” but since I have never been to Manchester and also to no other cities in Belgium, that’s stupid. I mean, I will be flying into Manchester for Christmas break, so maybe I can compare them then. Anyway, it looked like a dirty industrial town with a lot of character and some great buildings. And urban design. We reached the station and I alighted. Having reached the station at 1145, I knew I had 1.33 hours until I had to be back at the station for my 1307 train to Brussels. So, to kill time, I thought I might look for a 1200 Mass in town. The thing about European cities is that it’s easy to find a church because there are a lot of them and because they were built to be noticed. Good thing too. I arrived at a corner, looked to my right and say a Greek temple front. 
What?
Yes, a Greek temple front. But it was really the Church of St. Antoine. I looked at the schedule on the door and saw that I had missed the Mass. It had been 0800. I stopped in to pray a bit and then continued in my search for a church. I encountered two more before I gave up. One was a locked chapel which looked more or less like a row house except it had a cross on top. The other was a huge French neo-baroque, cement, neo-Byzantine, neo-pagan temple of a church. It was the biggest church in town with a huge dome. I wonder what happened. After being highly disappointed by the Mass schedules in the nearby churches, I looked at my phone and saw that it was 1220. I needed food before I got back to the train. I hate getting food in strange cities. I have no idea what the prices are like and what’s good. I decided to head back toward the train station so if my fast food wasn’t fast enough, at least I’d be by the train. I turned down a street looking for restaurants and found one. It had rotisserie chicken and stuff. But since it was all in a language I didn’t know, I ordered a hamburger. Ok, so I sort of ordered a hamburger. I uttered “Hamburger” and the lady there said something incomprehensible in French. Oh. French. Oh snap. Third time’s the charm, eh? Anyway, I eventually got my food after a lot of confusing dialogue-that-was-more-like-her-saying-something-and-me-awkwardly-getting-up-and-pointing. I paid and tried to apologize for my awkwardness, but just ended up saying “I’m an american studying in Italian” in Franc-Italian. I mean how is one to respond to just a statement like that? Well, she responded “Good.” Awkward?
I made the train. I thought I wouldn’t. As I wound my way back through Charleroi, I realized that I needed to come back and spend more time here. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t Rome. I hadn’t, of course, gotten to Brugges yet. So, yeah. Then I realized something else. I didn’t know whether I had forgotten my train ticket on the bus when I got it out to check on the directions. I semi-sort-of-panicked and then gave up because there wasn’t anything I could do and I had a train to catch. As I crossed the bridge to the Station, I checked my backpack and the ticket was safe. Let me just interject here. Why do I have to pay 40 Euro cents to use the restroom? I mean, it’s not 1.50 like it was in Venice, but come on! So I actually made it to the train on time and we took off. I had to switch trains in Brussels and so I was so close to freedom. So close. And then I got there and I realized that I wasn’t quite positive which train I was supposed to take and how long I would have to wait. I made a guess, and got on a train. It was heading toward Brugges. As I got off the train in Brugges, I realized that yes, I had taken 2 buses, 3 trains, 1 shuttle, and 1 plane over about 8.5 hours to get from one end of the continent of Europe to the other. And I hadn’t missed any of them. And I hadn’t died. Point Nate.
Or something."

Monday, November 7, 2011

What a backward, regressive, and oppressive society

Today is November 7th, for those of us who have been living under a rock. Also, relatedly, some people in the United States have decided to return to the days of the Primitive Hut. Disclaimer: I am not against taking principles from other eras, especially if they're good ideas. However, it seems that some of us are taking us back to pre-government times.

If you want to prove the purpose of government, the best idea is to get a group of people together, camp out in a park and try to survive without some order imposed by a government. Let me tell you, it doesn't work. Professional hobos will fleece you of your food, criminal activity will sky-rocket, and you will lose a lot of money. Of course, there are two options in each of these circumstances (there might be more, but I will say two). For the first instance, you can print citizenship cards and only those with cards will get food. Or else, you can decrease the quality of the food. The second one was chosen. For the second instance, you can either segregate the community and create a police force or run away. The first one (in a certain sense) was chosen. In the third instance you're screwed. You have to get a job.

What's funny is that if you don't want certain people partaking of the goods of the society (like hobos in New York City partaking of the delicious food provided by Occupy Wall Street volunteers), then don't let them. Get some infrastructure going. Just don't complain when people want to do the same with illegal immigrants.

If you don't want your world to be full of rapes and sexual assaults, don't let it happen. Increase your security force. Segregate the people into "safe areas" and "unsafe areas". But don't then complain when cities are segregated and the police are overbearing.

If you want to make money, then go make money.

You're doing a lot of good for the world, OWS, but you're not doing any good for yourselves. You think that you can start over and create a better society. Don't you see that you're falling into the same traps that every society has always fallen into and that you're protesting?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

So fly like a G6

I don't mean to reference a modern pop sing...I generally try to avoid it. But seriously, things have gotten out of hand and desperate times call for desperate measures. There are these things called Summits that people go to. They are generally for politicians of countries, Scientists and CEOs. In other words, commoners like myself would be bored stiff. Recently, there has been this trend in world politics to have these Summits. Like the G7 Summit or the G8 Summit or the G20 Summit. If I'm not mistaken the first of these G-Summits was between our friends FDR, Winston Churchill and Stalin. hahaha.

Ok, my point is that Silvio Berlusconi goes to the G20 Summit. Berlusconi! He could alternately be called "Berluscumbag" but I will refrain myself. These Summits are supposed to bring countries together to discuss some Very Important Issues. I'm sure they do it too, like "When are you going to go to war with Iran?" And "Has Birth-Control become universally available yet?"

Anyway, I bet you that Togo doesn't have a representative at the G20 Summit. I bet most of you don't even know what Togo is or where it is. I bet Barack Obama doesn't know where Togo is. Hint: It's by Kenya. hahaha.

The thing that irritates me is that in this age of speaking about World Governments and Globalisation, we all know who's going to be in charge when it finally all comes to pass. It'll be these strong economic centers who may have spats amongst themselves, but in reality will do all they can to tell the rest of the world what to do. Are you ruled by a dictator? Why not rebel! We'll support you. Then we'll pressure you into introducing democracy into your culture that makes no sense with democracy and then we'll have armed forces there to make sure it happens. Are you still "Third World"? Well, if you don't have computers, then you are a dead nation and you might as well be joined to this other nation here that can support you. Or you can support it with your rich supply of vital exports. Either way. We don't care because we're still secure with a dollar that's falling and a Euro that's just about dead. No, we won't take care of our business first. It is more important that condoms be handed out to every country free, because they are the ticket to happiness.

Oh, my gosh. Will the whole "G" movement just go away? Who do we think we are, God?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Centrality and Subsidiarity

If you haven't heard, some irrelevant non-doctrinal curial document from an equally irrelevant Vatican division states unequivocally that something is wrong.

Actually, The Church is advocating for a global government of unlimited power to control the money and banks of the world. Some activists might be happy to hear this, until they read the footnote. We will be returning to the Renaissance and the world will be ruled by the Pope who will amass as much wealth as he possibly can, spend it on rich vestments and voluptuous churches.

It's happened before.

And now, why my first reaction to hearing about this document was positive: I am, as we all know, a secret monarchist (and by secret, I mean that I always talk about it.) My whole political theorizing is based on a strong central figure who oversees the treasury of the nation as well as inspiring the people to unity. Furthermore, with the point about Centrality comes the point about Subsidiarity. Although there is a call for a central regulatory system, it is practically bereft of power, or rather it is bereft of practical power. The laws of the nations, their traditions, their culture shall remain with a central system making sure the stupid banks don't lend money where they shouldn't etc.

The main problem I have with this document is a) it's not doctrinal and thus is not binding as law to the faithful. I mean how lame is that? b) It doesn't advocate for the reinstitution of the papal states. I may be a monarchist, but I am a papist first. c) It actually doesn't say that the central government will be the Pope. Totally unradical. Since when did we stop trying to shock the world?

Actually, b) is mostly unrelated to this whole thing, but I'm still not over the reunification of Italy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

EuroCrisis, PowerGrabs, and North vs. South

I love how the media likes to make things out to be terrible. Ok, I get it, Europe (the nation) is doing pretty bad in terms of economy. So is the US. So is most of the world. I certainly don't know how to solve the problems. I work on a very micro- level and can only do what I can to do architecture and live my life in a just manner. I don't know anything about the Stock Market, the reason the Euro insists on being worth 1.38 US Dollars, or why China is apparently doing so well economically while maintaining one of the most unjust systems on record. Why is the EU centered in Belgium? If Sarkozy doesn't want England telling the EU what to do, what does he want from England, just money? If there are going to be European States, the individual states should have the prerogative to let the others know what they think should happen. And that's not even addressing the question of whether it's just to maintain a union where the economies of the constituent states are so radically different not to mention culture. If Greece, Italy, and Spain are failing, should another country be forced to pay for them making their own economy tank? What are our responsibilities to other countries? Should we bail them out? Should we take out their dictators for them? If we took over countries, would our economies recover? Is conquest and war the only way we're going to get out of this? I have heard some suggest this. Which brings me to my meeting with two gentlemen from Verona.

My class was on a field trip to the North of Italy and one of the professors took some of us out to eat with a Veronese architect and his brother. Now the Northerners are not happy with the state of Italy, let alone the EU. They don't like having to pay for the South's slip ups. The deficit in one Department of the Neapolitan government has a bigger deficit than the whole of the Veneto. That's a huge deal, btw. And since it is a united country, the North has to bail out the South. The Veneto up to the end of WWI was part of Austria and apparently were very well treated by the Austrians. Now, since Italy is a mess, the Northerners have to do most of the work. Is that just? Who knows? Do we have a responsibility to help everyone in need? Does it help a country to be bailed out?

I have a lot of questions, I know. Maybe the situation is dark, maybe it's not. What I'm going to worry about is doing an urban redesign of a section of Trastevere and hopefully my work will translate into a more just society. Hopefully something I do will...

Monday, October 10, 2011

This was the whole point of the Senate/House of Lords

In the ideal government, the commoner, the aristocracy and the soldier would all have an equal say in legislation. I get these categories more or less from the medieval Spanish cortes which had representation from these three groups. (I think clergy might have been one too.) Anyway, in America, we have lost the sense of the aristocracy. The senate was set up to be this, the elite, older members of the community who had amassed wisdom over time. Well, like I said, we lost that with the fact that now senators are elected just like the Representatives.

Not so in England. The House of Lords is doing great things still, or so it seems. And of course the secular rabble is anarchically calling for the repression of the Church and the House of Lords. Oh well, we all have the right to say what we want, right?

Friday, October 7, 2011

More Downgrades.

Today, the news comes out that Spain has had its credit rating downgrades as the US and Italy had before it. Also, Belgium is on watch for this. Although I have not been in Spain (I wish I had been), I will be going to Belgium in about a month. This of course indicates to me that Belgium's credit rating will fall between the 24th and 28th of November. Watch out, Belgium.

Oh, Money.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Italy loses its credit rating or Reason #34 why you shouldn't travel with me.

So, I'm here in Italy quietly minding my own business, going to the Questura like a good Temporary Citizen to get my papers finalized, taking architecture classes, observing tourism from a more local standpoint and contributing to the Italian economy by buying local...mostly food. Yeah, I eat a lot of food. Anyway, I do all this for Italy and what does it go and do? Well besides the fact that its Prime Minister is somewhat loose with women and wears fake hair, Italy went and lost its credit rating. It went from Aa2 to A2. I mean, Whaaa...? Come on! The US just went through this and now Italy? It seems like I'm a ticking credit-rating-drop bomb. Wherever I go, as my brother said, its credit rating drops. And the euro just went up one cent. Things couldn't go any worse.

Maybe I should move to China? Ha ha ha.

Also, just in from the Bank of England (which has printed billions of pounds of money to make up for this...can someone say inflation...or whatever?): This is the worst financial crisis the world has ever faced. If that is the case, I guess the Depression was not that bad, cause I for one am not driving from Oklahoma to California in a broken down truck. If this is worse than that, either we're screwed or....yeah, we're screwed.

In other news, Sarah Palin has declared that she will run for president by not running for president. In other words, she's telling you that she is a Cincinnatus character who doesn't want to be President and is therefore the best for the job. Then maybe in 3 years, she will run. Yes, I meant 3. Make of that what you will.

Working on more analysis of the Piazza della Rotonda. Will we ever get to design? Probably not.

And last but certainly not last, Steve Jobs has died. I love what that man did for the technology. Now go and wear a black ipod armband.

If this seems like Friday 7 Quick Takes, it may be like it, but it is not Friday. Boo yeah!

Ciao.

Monday, October 3, 2011

GMT

If I were prone to swearing by things, I think I might swear by Greenwich Mean Time. I don't know exactly how they chose the meridian they did to base the time zones off of, but it's really irrelevant. What isn't irrelevant is that we currently base our time calculation on the rotation of the earth. After all, what is the most obvious way of telling that time is passing? The position of the Sun of course! Its position is entirely dependent on how much the earth has rotated. Civilization has been telling time according the sun for aeons. Here in Rome, the obelisks were used as sun-dials!

Well, there are some who are calling for an end to telling time according to the earth's rotation and instead to atomic vibrations. True, these are also a way of telling that changes are happening and thus that time is passing, but why throw away the very practical obvious sun-based time telling? Even the layman can tell time by this! But now we want to throw away thousands of years of tradition with a practice that is according to the human experience and giving away our freedom to scientists who want to control everything, even time itself....preposterous! Viva GMT!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The EU: Mother/Fatherland of Democracy?

Besides the fact that I find the word "motherland" to be an unnecessary concession to radical feminist PR propaganda...(just kidding, love you feminists), that fact that the President of the unelected European Council should call the EU of all things the mother/fatherland of anything much less democracy is astounding. They couldn't even be called the motherland of Debt Crisis or the fatherland of Bailout!

Ok, but seriously, Democracy was made an art form in Greece, institutionalized by Britain and popularized by America.

Sorry to rag on the EU so much...well, not really. Whereas at least the US and Britain have (or had I should say) some semblance of a balance between the Three Forms of Government, the EU seems very slipshod.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Livin' in the EuroZone

Take it from this completely irrelevant Eurosceptic, this European Project has failed. In an attempt to "unionize" as the United States once did has resulted in an fast pace journey down the same road that America took. Only, they should have known, seeing how poorly they think of us (we're all racist fat people who shoot each other regularly...people have actually said this). I think that they have such a high view of their own "community" spirit that they couldn't possibly go through economic disaster like those stingy, greedy, selfish Americans. Well, they are, and because of said Community Spirit, they insist on bailing each other out. Britain, however, may opt out in the near future...for good.

P.S. The words "europhile" and "euroskeptic" are amazing.
P.P.S If only Belgium had stayed an independent Kingdom instead of the Centre of this Disaster...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Or at least as strange. The Telegraph has a story about a young man in Germany who wandered into Berlin with no idea who he was. He is supposed to have lived in the forest for the last five years and buried his dead father two weeks ago. It sounds like a great premise for a movie or a book. I can just see it....no that's too much influenced by the Bourne movies. Never mind.

This is in the "Only in Germany" file. Although it has happened before in Kent, England.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Updates

I am currently sitting under the awning of the hotel courtyard. In the background is the periodic (every fifteen minutes) sound of a nearby churchbell and perhaps even more often the sound of an emergency vehicle with its two tone alarm. Having just finished a morning caffé and orange, I'm wondering what to do with myself. I have about two hours until I have to be back at the hotel and in that time I could walk around the Forum (which, by the way, I did yesterday). I could also walk to the Vatican and back. I wonder if I can just walk into St. Peter's. It's possible, I suppose. That's how the Pantheon worked.

In case you missed it, I am in Rome, Italy, sharing The Albergo "Sole" with 47 other architecture majors and an assortment of French, German, and other tourists. My studio is in an old Roman Palazzo and it looks the part. My desk is right by a window which opens up on a balcony overlooking the intersection of Via Monterone and Via dei Redentoristi.

Already I have seen San Eustachio, the Pantheon, Il Gesu, and numerous other churches. I have encountered the Colosseum, the Forum, the Round Temple by the Tiber...the Tiber....I crossed the Tiber. I was on the Sistine Bridge. In other words, I've already had so many adventures and haven't even been here for a day.

Anyway, I'll be updating periodically and probably be making comments on the System here in Italia. For more spiritual updates: The Third Order.

Don't worry, pictures next time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Patriotic Lullabies

I was listening to "The Skye Boat Song" last night:
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.
Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.
Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the Claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead in Culloden's field.
Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.
I thought to myself, could we in 21st Century America come up with a political and yet hopeful lullaby? This song is about a Scottish hero who, according to legend, will return to restore the Stuarts to the throne of England and Scotland. Despite the obvious Messianic Allusions, what's the point? Well, as I was attempting to come up with a political lullaby for America, I looked back over what unites us. There was George Washington, erm....Martin Luther King Jr.? Any songs that I've heard about them haven't been too inspiring. If there are any.

Probably the most unifying patriotic song (besides, perhaps, the Star-spangled Banner) is "Proud to Be an American." And it is inspiring and moving. I think it is the most inspiring not because it talks about Freedom but because it talks about the people that matter to us, our families and our heroes: "And I won't forget the men who died and gave that right to me."

I think it is important to have someone to look up to, and it seems like in our country, that's the military....but not for some. And the military is inspiring in war, but what about in peace? Our "leaders" should be able to be admired, our Public Face should be a shining example.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Look to the right...

I put a donate button on the sidebar, cause my choir is going to sing for the Pope in Italy and it's not cheap. I as a college student have as my first priority my studies, but they aren't cheap either and the Pope is...well, the Pope. So I thought I'd beg any donation that people would be willing to give me. It doesn't have to be a lot.

Just thought I'd ask.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Nothing is certain but Death and Taxes" or so the saying goes. I might disagree, but the reality remains. There is death and there are taxes. We try to destroy death by medical means, and this often means, especially in dystopian novels, the killing of undesirables according to the Darwinian idea of "survival of the fittest". We want to reduce or abolish taxes and yet the only way to do this is to make everyone work more. In fact, it is argued that people will have to work more without taxes. I am not an economist and the point of this post is not economical. However, one of the points of the US project was the representation of its people because it was unfair to tax without a say in how it is spent. Now, in an age where the government is not a moral agent, all it becomes is a bank or a marketplace. If we abolish taxes and the government has no control over the money of the people (in any sense), then it ceases even functioning as part of "the market" or a bank at all. A bank can not run without initial investments that keep on coming. If we abolish taxes, then the government is useless for its use is to pay for things that the nation needs. At least since it lost its desire to be a moral agent, an example to the people. Therefore, if we do not have taxes and our representatives are not our examples for how to live, why have representatives at all? And if this is so, why did America start in the first place? Why are we a nation if we just want to destroy the meaning of our system? You say "no taxes"? Fine, but at least you should have a moral example, a public figure, maybe even a king. And since he can not tax, he will not become a dictator or a tyrant. 


My point is that we have lost a sense of the moral example of our elders and the politicians aren't doing it. The celebrities aren't doing it. Have an election for the king, I don't care. But abolish morality and taxes and you abolish the purpose of our system, the representative system. If you are so attached to it, bring back morality and bring back taxes. In other words: Stop trying to destroy death and taxes, they are certain. Without the second, there would be no American Dream. Without the first we would not get to Heaven. But that is topic for another time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hello, Irene.

As rains and winds and swirling vortexes of doom attack the East Coast, one wonders whether this is really the Promised Land that so many people talked about. Yes, it was the Land of Opportunity for many people who sought asylum for one reason or another, but was it really our Destiny to spread throughout the land and instill in our children the mantra of "sea to shining sea"?

What I'm referring to, of course, is the idea of Manifest Destiny. Now I'm a fan of being exceptional, if America actually. We don't lose out on poverty, we don't lose out on Natural Disasters, terrorist attacks, riots, and stupid politicians. What we do lose out on is something to bring the nation together, to something higher than our lives, something concrete. The only thing we have is tragedies like 9/11 (which, incidentally, should bring us together) but what would be truly exceptional is if we were able to unify while at rest, at peace. Anyone can see a common enemy, how many can see a common friend? Instead we become lazy, complacent and selfish. Even those who have a cause are often not even personally affected by the problem. We have no common pride in the good of our country except some vague notion that we're a cut above the rest, which apparently we're not. We happen to have less poverty than third world countries, and that means we must have done something right if our poor are richer than other nations' poor, but still, how long can we keep it up? We keep insisting that we have the answers, are on the intellectual high ground. That they just don't get it.

I think we have terrible self-esteem issues as a nation.



Monday, August 22, 2011

REBELS TAKE MOST OF CITY!!!

Do we remember when the French Revolution was going on? Nah, I doubt it, only because there's not one person alive today who was alive then. I believe, however, that our very own Hero of Liberty was a huge fan of the movement known as the French Revolution. It seems we haven't much changed as a nation cause we're all gung-ho about the rebels in Libya taking over most of the city. They've finally gotten the momentum they need to take out the number 4.3 World's Worst Dictator. In the days of the French Revolution, the King was just taken to the guillotine. Nowadays, I guess the expectation is suicide.

I'm just saying, maybe we should stop being so...pro-revolution. It's not like Revolution is an Inherent Good. I mean don't we remember what happened after the French Revolution? I believe the term is "Reign of Terror". We help destroy regimes only to produce a culture of terror, destruction and chaos.

Sometimes, I feel a special closeness to isolationism.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I want to design a church and I want it to get built.

I want to found a cultural center in some city where not only education happens, but also sports, other leisure and the creation of things happens.

I am an idealist, but it has only been in recent decades when idealism was equated with pipe-dream. Probably around the time when the phrase "pipe-dream" was invented.

There was a time when an idealist would tell his ideas to others and they would be inspired to help him attain those ideals. This was often in connection with a building project. Or the establishment of some institution. The University of Notre Dame is one of these. It started as just a couple priests from France with an idea. But it's now a whole huge research university.

But the average joe has forgotten what it's like to need something. Something outside of his own making for himself, or so it seems. I'm not the only one who's noticed.

What we need is for there to truly be specific projects for the people to get behind that come from the community and are created in the community by the community.

I think this could happen.

But then again, I am an idealist.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A new blog from a semi-new friend

Once, when I found myself singing in the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, I realized that not everyone in the choir was quite normal. Now most members would say "Duh", but here is one example of "unnormalness" that I appreciate from one of my friends from choir.o

To see more from this fine fellow, here is one episode of his vlog, "Pertinent Commentary".

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

While terror reigns in London...

The Royal family is trying to reign in their own way. And their doing a heck of a better job in my opinion than the poor excuses for politicians.

To explain myself, I will link to a story.

Harry is a true King. He may not rule a country. He may not be in direct line to the throne, but he is a noble man who wishes to lead his country with honor and defend his country with his life. William, so it seems, is also noble. They both have active jobs in protection of the British nation. They are in the public eye enough to make it be...you know...inspirational. And that is what a King should do. Inspire the people.

We need inspiration in our country. I wonder when it will come.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Riots and things

In the last year or two, Milwaukee has developed a problem. I would call it the "mob problem" or maybe the "Augustine Syndrome", although that might not be quite accurate. It started, as far as I can remember at Mayfair Mall. The linked story was not, I think, the first riot-like event at Mayfair. Apparently this one was the result of a flash-mob game of freeze tag, or at least that's what was said at first. I'll have more about flash-mobs later. More recently, however, there has been what some might call a rash of incidents after/during the summer festival activities. The first of these was when a group of "youth" entered the Riverwest neighborhood and apparently beat people up and ransacked a BP station on July 4th, right after the Summerfest fireworks. And just this past weekend, on the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair, a group of youth ran through the Midway attacking people etc.

Here's what one blogger had to say about it.

Some have said that it is racially motivated and a hate crime. Sometimes I have to wonder if some people "just want to watch the world burn" (The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan). This is of course why I called it the Augustine syndrome. Augustine, in his Confessions tells about an incident when he and his friends stole into a neighboring orchard, picked the pears off the trees and just threw them about. He did not want to eat the pears, he just wanted to cause trouble. Of course, Augustine became a saint, so you never know what's going to happen. However, conversion doesn't just happen. Augustine was educated in the best schools and his mother prayed for him constantly. I don't know, sounds like it might help these hooligans.

I really need to get back to that educational theory I'm developing...

On a related note, there was another riot in Tottenham in England. There seems to be a lot of rioting recently, even in so-called democracies. (I know, technically the US and the UK are not democracies.) It brings to mind the ideas of Polybius the Roman historian. His claim is that each form of government has its corrupted form. A monarchy becomes a tyranny, an aristocracy becomes an oligarchy and a democracy becomes mob-rule. Each abuse is solved by instituting the next form of government, or trying to combine them like the US tried to do with minimal success. Anyway, living in a country with an attempt at a mixture of them, we are tempted to think that none of the abuses will happen.

Well, they still do and even worse we really don't see it coming. Another post may be needed to explain how these occur in our system, but these riots and mobs show that the concept of mob-rule is truly just around the corner. And the only way to change that is someone with enough resources to quell the mob and establish a monarchy. It's happened before. Maybe it needs to now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I am a believer

Global Warming is real. And they've discovered when it started.

Britain vs. Indiana

No, it is not a lawsuit. I wish it was. A while back, I mentioned that stabbing burglars would be legal in the UK. It's a matter of self defense in the home. However...in Indiana!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Telegraph

Other blogs have cited the Telegraph for articles as I did two posts ago, but I really do find it to be a unique newspaper. It looks great on the web, managing to give the appearance of a paper news outlet while utilizing the web options very well...and it has the most interesting articles. About Roman medicine. And other things. The BBC generally has some pretty interesting stuff, and certainly is worthy of citation, but I think I'll be sticking with the Telegraph for my news for right now. I don't want my day to be completely ruined by news of international threats, wars, and dictators.

So much to do, so little time.

My last post reminded me that I have to get going on developing and writing on my educational theory...which of course I will post up there beside my architectural theory page. Oh, and a couple other things....

We don't need no education

Actually, we do. Do we all need equal education? I'm not so sure. This article from The Telegraph in England it all. Oh, and this one.

I once ran in skater circles. For the uninitiated, that means skateboarding. I prized my neighbors cast-off Vans like they were the best thing since sliced bread. I wrote "Live to Skate" on the bottom of my board and even made up my own graffiti symbol. It's not hard to do. The point is, I could never even do a kick-flip, I mean, how pathetic is that? Could I have learned? Sure, but I obviously didn't actually live to skate, because I soon grew tired of the culture of skating and gave it up. Let me tell you, it wasn't the most wholesome atmosphere.

If I wanted to become a skateboarder, I would have educated myself and sought out education on how to do these simple tricks and then onto harder ones. But not everyone needs to be a skater. Not everyone needs to know how to "kick-flip". Most people don't even know what that means and are fine without it. In the same way, not everyone needs to be a scientist, or an astronaut, or a politician or a lawyer. In fact, not everyone can be. I didn't have the focus or the skills to be a skater and some don't have it to be a doctor. However, that is ok.

I believe that schools should stop saying "You can be whatever you set your mind to." Because sometimes your mind changes and your abilities don't always match your dreams. "Do your best" is a good motto because it bases the goal on your abilities. If you want to increase your abilities, go ahead, follow your dreams. Many people can do this, but it takes initiative and it has to come from within. A school can't just say "We'll help you become what you want to be" and then set up all these connections without forming the character and will of the student. The student should know what it takes to become what he wants and then form himself and seek out formation that will make it possible. If he ends up not "following his dream" he will be better for the formation, and he may have a better dream.

The Public Schools here in Milwaukee are generally a joke. The dropout rate is high etc. If they don't want to put the effort into "following their dreams" they should be there in the first place. It's a waste of resources, time and frankly the lives of the students to spend money on students who don't want to be there and are dragging the rest of the class down too.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

conquest.ly

Over the weekend, Muammar Muhammed al-Gaddafi, the dictator of Lybia, threatened to scale a full fledged attack on Europe if NATO won't stop attacking him. He says he has the manpower to do it. And of course, Madam Secretary says "You should resign instead". Like he hasn't heard that before. Right now, it's a battle of words...over the airwaves, and a battle for lives on the ground. If he does make good on his threats, the battle for lives will continue. In Italy, most likely. Hmm, maybe being in Rome this year will be interesting after all.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

News.va, Papal tweets etc.

"Un Tweet Storico" as the Italian version of the new Vatical news site states. Apparently the Pope is now a bird.

But he's a bird that lets someone else do his tweeting for him. He just presses the button.

In the sidebar, I say that I follow the Vatican. It's true. It will especially be true this coming school year when I am in Rome. Ever since I heard about the new Vatican website, I have been excited. Now I'm not an old hat at blogging like some, but I do enjoy that fact that the Church is in a more official capacity "joined" the internet. Even Il Papa himself is getting involved. He is truly a revolutionary Pope.

Also, I was supposed to get an email when the website launched but I got it the DAY AFTER. I thought the internet was supposed to cut back on all that time between things. Instant gratification and all that.

Oh, and in British News, stabbing burglars will be legal. Also, some random English Bishop made some irrelevant remarks on the importance of the "externals" of the ordained priesthood...or something.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Marriage is what brings us together today...

...and homosexual civil unions is what is driving us apart. Friday marked the passage of a bill allowing "gay marriage" in New York, what many are calling the sixth and most consequential state to do so. I would really rather not talk about homosexuality because it disgusts me for one reason or another. However, in that this move is one that destroys the meaning of marriage, it's kind of a big deal for me, especially today. I wrote a reflection on the reason marriage is significant this weekend.

There are many commentators out there rejoicing in this turn of events and there are many who mourn. It's at moments like this when the culture of America and its cultural offspring is slowly destroying the cohesion of civilisation that I wish we could just forget about our globalisation efforts for a bit and work on our dear country. We are strangely lacking in concrete symbols to rally around. In an age where it is uncertain whether or not flag-burning is a constitutional right, and the Eagle means nothing, the president comes and goes, the country is constantly divided along party lines, one wishes that we had something besides the the death of thousands on days of catastrophe. Oh, and the dollar. That's something we can all agree on. Except that it's falling fast in value and plus money is all a construct anyway in the federal reserve system as it stands.

But back to days of catastrophe, because money depresses me, I think America needs to realize something that I don't know that many people anywhere realize anymore. The positive is just as potent as the negative. We should all be able to rally around something that is good in this nation, not just the calamities of terror. Yes, we have fireworks and the fourth of July, but like I said, that has become theoretical patriotism. It's not connected to what we do as Americans or who we are. And if it's not a symbol of something we agree on, then what's the use? So, what is good in this nation?

Somewhat of a rhetorical question.

I would say that marriage is good. But it is slowly or maybe not so slowly leaving this nation. Apparently the legislature laughed in the face of the people of New York and said "Screw you, we're going to do this anyway, no matter what you think." You see, the lawmakers are not virtuous men and women, they're shallow, easy, manipulated, empty robots. They don't do what is best for the people, but what a few of the people think is best for them. And as we all know, we don't always want what's best for us really.

This move, believe it or not, by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill is kind of funny considering that he and his family have traditionally held that the public work of politics is separate from his private religion. Well, let me tell you, Mr. Cuomo. You destroy earthly marriage in a hyped-up political move (especially one that the bishops were firmly against) and the heavenly marriage that you claim to profess isn't going to mean much. Catholics can participate in the heavenly marriage with Christ Jesus in the Eucharist, but if marriage means nothing, heavenly marriage certainly doesn't.

Give that a thought.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Architecture Conference...and MORE

A couple weekends ago, and my apologies for being busy almost 24/7 since then, was the Palladio Conference at Notre Dame. It was an amazing experience mostly because it featured some very important international architects such as Leon Krier and Robert Adam. It also had, quite surprisingly to me, quite a bit of disagreement about what it means to build traditionally or classically these days. Let me tell you, it's not easy. Tradition is one of the most misused and reviled terms on the planet and so no wonder people take differing stands on traditional architecture. I myself have my own theory of architecture which I'm trying to write into a book. I ended up being very annoyed at the architects I saw speak mostly because they weren't very good at it, but also because they didn't seem to delve into the application of Palladian architecture today but rather focused on how Palladio dealt with his own era's problems. Which is fine, but I would have preferred if the architects had gotten up there and defended their own work in terms of Palladian or classical architecture and urbanism. I think it would have sparked a lot of good discussion as well as presented an intellectual and not merely fact-based conference. I did however talk to The Heiress a bit, as well as to her father. (I even had a small discussion with him about something upon which he believed we disagreed. Turned out we didn't.)

Also while I was down there, I hopped over to McKenna Hall where the annual University Faculty for Life Conference was being held, hosted by our very own Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame. Now I am not Faculty of any kind, although I often wish I was. However, my father was attending and he been faculty. And anyway, I am "for Life", so that's all right. Anyway, Professor Solomon, current Director of the Center gave a rousing speech at the Closing Banquet. It concerned the split between the "activist" branch of the prolife movement and the "academic" branch and how the academic debate is at an impasse. It was, surprisingly considering what has happened recently both at Notre Dame and in the World at Large, hopeful. It made me quite glad that I was on the winning side--God's side.

My Other Life

One might call it my Inner Life. It's where I occasionally reflect on the interesting and grace-filled moments in my life. Yes, there are some. Of course, I tend to avoid spicy topics over there, but isn't that what a pseudo-political blog is for? And so of course I had to start this one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I am a Fan.

Last year, Pope Benedict set up a system through which members of the Anglican Community could join the Catholic Church while maintaining those traditions not contrary to the Faith and which connected the community, a system known a "Ordinariates." I, being somewhat of an anglophile, have been really excited. Also, my patron saint, St. Thomas More, was beheaded for holding to the True Faith, and now so many people have the opportunity to rejoin the ranks.

Well, it's not only for the English. It's also for Americans of the Anglican Communion. For instance, people from Maryland: Here's what the folks at St. Luke's have to say for themselves.  (h/t: Fr. Z.)

It's so cool that so many people are coming to the Fullness of Truth through the Church. Christ had a wish that His disciples be one...and He promised to be with us always, in fact we heard this line on the Ascension just last Sunday (in some diocese). This is a step in the right direction of Unity, and you know, it's at times like this that I can believe that Christ will fulfill his promise.

BREAKING NEWS!!!

This is...the most tasty...computer ever...
Let me put it this way. For one reason or another, Steve Jobs is a genius. Yes, he is a Man of Big Business. Yes, he probably doesn't care about anyone but himself and his wallet, but boy, he sure does a swell job with computers.

And this is The Record Company.
The irony is that I'm typing this on a Dell computer running Windows Vista...or is it 7?

This astounding story tells it all.

So now I can access the contents of my computer anywhere? On any computer connected to the internet? Oh wait I think Google already has this...but wait, Apple actually made a deal with "The Record Companies" (sounds like it should be a band...). The deal says that 70% of the revenue from the iCloud services. Tada! Music industry is back in business. I think that's a good thing.

(And further can someone tell Steve Jobs that my Macbook is acting up?)