Traditional Roman Liturgy and Christmas Pudding

Here is a nice, short article on the so-called Stir-up Sunday. I would only argue that this tradition is not only Anglican but is also Roman.  I always thought this was sometime in Advent, but, alas, it is the last Sunday before Advent, which this year was November 30—as I jokingly called it, the “Sunday within the Octave of Thanksgiving.”

Incidentally, from the last Sunday before Advent through the Fourth Sunday of Advent, all but one of the Collects begins with excita, the Latin word which is translated “stir up.” Consequently, I was never sure which one was Stir-Up Sunday; I always figured it to be closer to Christmas.

In any case, the age-old tradition is that people would go to church and hear “excita” and know that it was time to stir up the Christmas pudding. It is, in truth, a quaint and innocuous custom—hardly the red meat that built the Medieval cathedrals or wrote the polyphony of Leonin and Perotin–but it is nonetheless an example of the mutual discourse between religion and culture which is presently absent. In this subject area, contemporary Christianity of all types (well, maybe not Eastern Orthodoxy…) has chosen various swords of stupidity on which to fall. Some insist on a “dialogue” with culture which ultimately co-opts the most vapid aspects of peasant taste. Others pride themselves on not being of the world and therefore eschew anything that is less than a century old. Both approaches are suicidal.

A solution for this? I’ll have to think about that.

The ice cream diet: another update

Back in August–in fact, it was on the same day I began this blog–I started a diet which consisted of running, calorie counting, and eating ice cream. I do a lot of eating at Subway too, if only because the calorie counting is made much simpler.

I began in August at 200 pounds on the nose. I am now down to 162.5. My goal weight is 155, which I hope to achieve fairly soon. (Being the superstitious type, I hesitate to tell you what the exact target date is, lest I jinx myself.) I have used a combination of long-term and short-term goals. I try to lose two pounds per week. Whenever I get to the two pound mark, I treat myself to a nice dinner (and sometimes some drinking, too) and generally do not count calories. I do still run, however. I eat ice cream every day, unless something has gone awry in the calorie or the exercise department. I run every day unless I have a literal time conflict. Too tired? I run. Too hot? I run. Too cold? I run. Rain? I get wet. Too stressed? Well, nothing helps that like a good run. Finally, I don’t cut my sleep short unless it’s absolutely necessary. The human body metabolizes more while sleeping than while awake but at rest. (This is the best excuse for falling asleep in front of the football game that I know of, especially if you’re a fan of the 5-4-1 Eagles.)

In short, in order to lose a significant amount of weight, one must do everything that no one else wants to do. Sometimes, when people ask me how I lost all this weight, they don’t like the answer: Eat less, move more, sleep more. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. This flies in the face of modern consumerism, which even free market enthusiasts such as Albert Jay Nock lamented, Nock having called it “economism.” Henry Hazlitt talks about the unwillingness of most people to set aside short-term gain for long-term benefit instead. That is probably why so many people have trouble with losing weight.

Well, there it is folks. Eat less, move more, sleep more. Have a good evening.

Pennsylvania thinks soap is unnecessary

When self-checkout kiosks began appearing in supermarkets in the early part of this decade, I resisted them stubbornly. They seemed to be a symptom of the deification of efficiency, and of the modern tendency to avoid meaningful interaction with other people–two phenomena to which I am just as susceptible as anyone else.

It did not take long for me to mellow on this, if for no other reason than that the stores were making use of fewer red-blooded cashiers in the wake of this new invention. I began to take note of some of the advantages of the self-checkout routine. For one thing, if I’m in a bad mood, I don’t risk subjecting some innocent person to my bad vibe, but for another thing, I pay more attention to certain details on my grocery bill.

One of those details concerns items which are taxed and items which are not taxed. Here in the State of Pennsylvania, the tale is that necessary items are not taxed–for example, clothing and food. Of course, some foods are taxed, if they are deemed to be non-essential. Soda, for instance, is taxed, if I recall correctly.

Never in my life would I have thought that soap would be a taxable item. Imagine my surprise when, on a trip to the store this evening, sales tax came up after I ran the hand soap over the scanner. On what planet is soap not necessary? And are some soaps tax free? I happen to have certain soaps that I like, soaps that kill bacteria and that do not dry, crack, and shred my hands all to hell. How is this not an essential item? Would the people who have to sit next to me on the subway agree that soap is non-essential?

All of this brings out the absurdity in having the government decide what is necessary and what is not. The truth of the matter is that different materials are necessary for different people. (So, as far as soap is concerned, it would be a question, I think, of kind, and not of whether or not one uses it!) To me, having a large pickup truck (to which I will, by the way, never aspire) would be a luxury, but to a hard-working plumber or farmer, it’s surely a necessity. To most people, eating out in restaurants is a frill; but to nomadic workers, it’s a necessity. The short version of this story is that the government is in no position to determine, even for the poorest citizens, what is necessary and what is not. The bureaucrats do not and will never have all the required information to divine (pun intended!) such things. This is a flaw that F.A. Hayek discussed in the context of Central Planning in his fairly good book The Road to Serfdom.

Of course, I don’t expect any Philadelphia tea parties over the State sales tax. After all, it seems that most people regard the absence of the sales tax on certain items to be a favor, like it’s the equivalent to an employer handing out Christmas bonuses. Perhaps this is because most people, having resigned themselves to dealing with what’s right in front of their faces, have not reflected on the manifest injustice that is taxation in all its forms.

And that really stinks.

Michael Phelps makes my ice cream diet look like rabbit food

Via Drudge comes this story from the New York Post, which describes Michael Phelps’ 12,000 calorie a day diet.  I got fat just from reading what he eats for breakfast.