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Open Submissions: Blog Posts, Features, and Fiction

 

Rad Infinitum is a venue about many things. Pop culture, politics, people. Poetry and pilgrimage. Sports and science and social media. Business, and the business of health and food and communication. Art. Guys and girls and geeks and Good. We all have our obsessions, ephemeral or otherwise. Maybe it turns out that self-reference matters, and the things we like, our many fandoms, are part of how we fit together.

Starting today, you can submit blog posts, features, and original fiction to Rad Infinitum through Submittable.  We’re looking forward to hearing from you.


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Fridays with Francis: January 23, 2015

Melissa Maleski

Rabbits. Out of an entire lengthy interview  that covers some incredibly heavy subjects, all people could talk about this week were rabbits. I think Mr. Cuddles aptly expresses my feelings on the Papal news blitz this week:

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Mr. Cuddles and I want to direct your attention to the more relevant “R” word used in this notorious portion of the Holy Father’s interview: “responsible.” Pope Francis spoke of the irresponsibility of a woman who was having her eighth child after having seven cesarean sections. The Holy Father was not calling the number of children irresponsible, but how she seemingly disregarded prudence under the guise of “trusting in God.” In cases like these, “trusting God” is really just Pilot-esque hand-washing; life is going to happen, especially when we just sit there and let it.

The flip side of this responsibility–of this prudence–is responsible justice. Having large families and “being open to life” may seem an odd thing to be labeled as responsible justice, but think of it in terms of the second of the Great Commandments: love your neighbor as yourself.  This essential teaching of Jesus tells us four compelling things about how we’re meant to live.  One, everyone deserves love. Two, each of us is responsible for giving love to others. Three, we are responsible for accepting the love that others give us. Four, the two cannot be separated. When we give love and accept love it is an act of justice. The “responsible” part just means that we are making a conscious effort to act justly towards everyone. So “being open to life” is much more than just having lots of kids. It means being open to giving all people the love they deserve,

When you put these two together–responsible prudence and responsible justice–you can see Pope Francis’ mindfulness of human dignity in whole. Love your neighbor as yourself can’t become love your neighbor more than yourself or love your neighbor less than yourself without somebody getting the shaft.

And that, in my opinion, is the Holy Father’s point, a message that was dwarfed this week by rabbits. In case you aren’t able to read the whole interview, let me catch you up to speed. Pope Francis said:

One of the things that is lost when there is too much wealth or when values are misunderstood or we have become accustomed to injustice, to this culture of waste, is the capacity to cry…We Christians must ask for the grace to cry. Especially wealthy Christians. To cry about injustice and to cry about sins. Because crying opens you to understand new realities, or new dimensions to realities.

When I say it is important that women be held in higher consideration in the Church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a dicastery — though this would be fine. No, it’s so that they may tell us tell us how they experience, and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one.

But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars – from them. Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but allow them to evangelize you. Because they have values that you do not.

Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.

Today, paper and what’s left over isn’t all that’s thrown away. We throw away people.

I don’t know what to say after that last one. It’s a brutal, brutal truth.

On a final note, Pope Francis threw out a book recommendation that will help frame his thinking behind “ideological colonization.” Written in 1903 by Robert Hugh Benson, it’s called Lord of the World. From his preface I think Mr. Benson will be quite entertaining:

I am perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open to innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others. But I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and which I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines to a sensational point. I have tried, however, not to scream unduly loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence and consideration for the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt is quite another matter.

In case you missed last week’s Fridays With Francis, which dealt with ideological colonization in more depth, read it here.

About this feature:  The spiritual leader of a over a billion people, “the People’s Pope”  has captured the attention and imagination of millions others with no formal relationship to the Roman Catholic Church through thought, word, and deed. Writer Melissa Maleski brings an insightful Catholic convert’s perspective to the general themes (culture, politics, spirituality, art, and more) Rad Infinitum covers, and will no doubt add greatly to our experience of Francis’ leadership and unfolding legacy.

 

How do you fight cheating in the NFL? Ban the Patriots from the Super Bowl.

How do you fight cheating in the NFL? Ban the Patriots from the Super Bowl, suggests Nico Lang.  I say he’s on to something, but it’s also patently obvious that the league has no credibility.  Just look at the CTE scandal and how the league’s broadcast partners keep their journalistic wings mostly silent.

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Lord Huron Announces Sophomore Album “Strange Tails” via Facebook and You Tube Teaser Trailer

Nathan Key

After months of subtle hints, Lord Huron announced yesterday that their forthcoming album, Strange Tails, will be released in 2015. The band provided a teaser trailer to coincide with the announcement which showcases short snippets from the new project.

Musically (and visually), it appears that the band will continue to integrate the western motif and 70’s-inspired, narrative storytelling that was the primary appeal of their 2012 LP Lonesome Dreams. Keep an eye out for this offering in the coming months. If Strange Tails packs the punch of  Lonesome Dreams, we could be listening to a preview of one of the best albums of 2015.

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Notes from Niflheim: Death and Children

 

RDG Stout

Last weekend I picked up Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory from the local library. Ms. Doughty is the host of the “Ask a Mortician” web series and the founder of “The Order of the Good Death” over on Facebook. Her backstory is pretty straightforward: innocent, eight-year-old girl is deeply traumatized by seeing another young girl plummet to her gristly demise, and now as a millennial young adult seeks to change the unhealthy denial of real death (as opposed to the glorification of fictional carnage) rampant in American culture.

Her book is nothing earth-shattering, but it’s a quick read and worth the time. I stumbled upon Ms. Doughty’s work in my followings of Caleb Wilde’s similarly themed blog, “Confessions of a Funeral Director.” Like Ms. Doughty, Mr. Wilde seeks a revolution in the ways that we deal with death, or rather our refusal to do so. Both seem to have a healthy following, though both have also been accused of being a bit too Generation Overshare.

Theirs seems a decent quest. As someone who’s worked in both churches and trauma bays over the years, I can attest to our culture’s general befuddlement when it comes to the grave. Then again, mine is not a particularly normal perspective on such matters. I honestly can’t remember when I saw my first dead body. Nor do I have any idea as to how many people I’ve buried, scattered, or otherwise memorialized. What I can tell you is that my record in the hospital was six violent deaths in six hours, from midnight to morning.

Death has been a reality in my life for as long as I can recall. Raised religious, I was always taught that a good death at the end of a long life was an accomplishment for which to prepare, and that untimely or tragic death never has the final say. “Teach me to live that I might dread / the grave as little as my bed,” indeed. As a young child, I remember family walks through the graveyard behind my grandparents’ house. I found it neither macabre nor morbid, but peaceful. Here rested so many people who had walked this same path before me. Here I was full of questions, and these silent stones reminded me that those here interred had found answers. Death may be scary, but the alternative—life without an ultimate aim in mind—seems unthinkable.

Nor have I ever viewed age as a bad thing. In truth, it’s been nothing but kind to me so far. Aging has let me outgrow childish neuroses and embarrassing inexperience. It’s made me stronger, calmer, wiser, and most importantly given me a family. I feel sort of sorry for folks who pine for their twenties, or worse yet their teens. Sure, I had fun back then, but I’m glad it’s over now. The older we get, the more real life becomes. Who would want to go back? I have a feeling that 35-year-old me wouldn’t have terribly much patience for my 25- and 15-year-old iterations.

Of course everything changes when we become parents. Growing up I lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, high school friends, my Dad. These losses always kept death in mind, but in such a way that it made me appreciate life. I didn’t go Goth or anything like that. But then kids come along—and suddenly there’s something in life so much more terrifying than your own death. Before parenthood, everyone has a different set of fears. After parenthood, there is only one fear, to the exclusion of all others. It is a hard bargain.

My wife and I were given a rather dramatic introduction to Every Parent’s Nightmare when our son, our first child, was born blue. Here we were all ready to take him home to the nursery, to start a new life as a family, and before we could hold him he was intubated, thrown on a plane, and flown to the opposite end of the state for $300,000 worth of heart surgery. All I got to see was his one little half-open eye staring uncomprehendingly at me before he left.

Don’t worry. He’s fine today. In fact, he doesn’t remember a thing. Even that massive scar has faded almost to invisibility. But his mother and I will never forget, and that jolt of terror never fully goes away. Even when the next two were born perfectly healthy and happy, I found myself sneaking into their rooms at night to place my hand on their chests, to feel them breathe. I still do that. We have friends who have lost children. They humble me.

(It’s funny, but I’d always assumed that Shakespeare’s Sonnets were all romantic poems. Then I started reading them, and found that they sing of how children stave off any bitterness associated with aging and death. Clever man, that. We should read him more.)

I work with undertakers all the time. They tend to have great senses of humor, deep compassion for the grieving, and incredibly healthy and grounded worldviews. In fact, my affection for undertakers is what led me first to the works of Mr. Wilde, then to those of Ms. Doughty. Working routinely with funeral directors, caring for bodies, and walking with families as they perform the last great duty that any of us can perform for a loved one, you start to think that death really has lost its sting. Easter arises triumphant.

But when I look to my children, happily turning our lives to chaos, so full of life that we haven’t slept through the night in half a decade, I still feel that spasm of fear. I don’t fear dying, and I never have; but the thought of them going before me is absolutely terrifying. At such times the casual, even cocksure attitude of the preacher is laid bare, and we are revealed as vulnerable to the Reaper as everyone else.

And so I cling ever more tightly to the Cross, to the God Who is a family, to the God Who lost a Son. Sometimes I am less amazed at the promise of life arising from death than I am at the idea that God continued to love us even when we killed His Child. That’ll bring me to my knees every time.

RDGStout was born and raised amongst the Pennsylvania Deutsch but has spent the last decade as a country preacher in the windswept wilds of Niflheim, a.k.a. rural Minnesota. He lives in a mead hall with his Viking wife, three kids, and a bizarre assortment of stories.

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Bob Dole’s 1996 Website is Still Online, is an Historic Treasure Trove, and is All in Third-Person

Among the revelations:

his concern about governments cyber-spying on their citizens

his team was ahead of the interactive and meme-making curve.

In 1996, Bill Clinton’s team predicted sluggish economic growth for the early years of the 21st century.

The August redesign was, according to the team, the first-ever customizable political website in history.

The day after the Oct. 6 debate in Hartford, during which Dole mentioned the site, over 750,000 new visitors logged on (with AOL and Netscape, no doubt) in a four-hour period, with an Oct. 7 total as high, perhaps, as 2 million.

When you have some time, pour over some of the agenda details.  Where do you think Dole ’96 stands in relation to today’s Republicans?  It’s worth noting that Pat Buchanan beat Dole in New Hampshire that spring.

 

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Why a Tie Goes to the Runner: Lessons from Contract Law and the Insurance Industry

Christopher Cocca

Simply put, the Runner is outnumbered.  Cut the Runner a break.

Let’s put a finer point on it.  In contract law, the law of adhesion states that when one party sets all parameters of a given contract with no chance for negotiation, the second party always wins any arbitration having to do with vague language or questions left open to interpretation. The first party must adhere to terms expressly spelled out in the contract.

The Pitcher and the Defense are the first party in our baseball scenario.  The terms of each half-inning (the contract) are clearly in favor of the first party, which is why we get excited when the Batter, the second party in this case, hits safely a mere one third of the time.  Just as a second party comes to a contract at a disadvantage when, say, buying insurance, so to the Batter steps into the box knowing he or she is outnumbered 9 to 1 and that the odds of hitting safely are historically slim (see also the law of large numbers).  Applying the law of adhesion requires that in the case of a Batter/Runner reaching a given base and the ball reaching that same base via delivery from one Defensive Player to another (assuming the second Defensive Player is touching the base in question) at the same time, the judgement ought to go to the Batter/Runner as the party with less ability to negotiate more favorable terms.

Like the law of adhesion, the law of utmost good faith (all parties to a contract are assumed to be honest) is only applicable in baseball in certain situations.  PEDs are banned, as are certain pitches, substances, and practices.  But a catcher trying to deceive an umpire after a pitch that misses, an outfielder taking credit for catching a fly ball when he/she really only trapped it, or any number of other instances of gamesmanship are not only permitted, but also widely lauded.  Gamesmanship is an integral part of the psychology and cerebral appeal of baseball. It’s why traditional fans want nothing to do with expanded instant replay.

Applying the law of adhesion to apparent ties is likely the best and only way to resolve MLB’s vexing (or, if you’re like me, charming) lack of clarity on the issue.