Updates & Trivia & Writing

A. Busy at work, which means I’m avoiding even more work than usual. Plus, somehow, I ended up with stuff to do every night this week except Friday.

Cuts into the blogging. Yea, yea, boo-freakin’-hoo.

B. Tonight, for an RCIA class, I got volunteered to do some Church history, which, to my naive mind, isn’t any different from plain old history everywhere the Church has ever been. As in, you can hardly talk of secular history in those places and times without the Church, nor can you talk about the Church without knowing what was going on in the larger world (if, indeed, the world can be said to be larger…).

This pitch is right in my wheelhouse, so I’m all rarin’ to go. I was assigned the period of 1200 through the Counter Reformation – woohoo! – and given a 15 minute slot. Well. As no one has ever accused me of being too terse, it might be a *slight* challenge to fit 400+ tumultuous and critical years of history that happens to include, among other things, discovery of an entire hemisphere, into 15 minutes. If I gave 3 minutes each to Gregory VII,(1) Francis, Dominic, Gothic architecture, Wittenberg and Trent, I’m already 3 minutes over, and haven’t touched on Charles Borromeo, the way the Counter Reformation influenced music (I could do an hour or more just on O Magnum Mysterium...), and about a dozen more topics that spring to mind before I’ve even researched it. We will be pruning with the ol’ intellectual chainsaw, here.

Since I’m already doing Feasts & Faith, I probably should hold off doing a Church History seminar-thing for another year. At that point, I’m thinking 10 1.5 hour lecture/discussions, which would barely scratch the surface. What I’d bring to the game: blending art, music and philosophy into the narrative.  There’s only like a library of books on this topic – my only excuse for doing this would be bringing in threads from many sources. There’s probably already a book or 50 that do just that….

C. One thing I wish I had time to discuss: the relationship of the Church & State, and how it differed in the East and West, and how the West’s division of Church and State helped bring about the artistic, cultural and technological revolution in Medieval Europe. I doubt there could have even been a Dante of the Eastern Churches – a man passionate about the complementary and divinely-given rights and duties of Church and State. Instead, the East retained more of the ancient Roman practice of religious careers being government careers – I should say, religious careers *of course* being government careers.

The fragmented feudalism of the West allowed for layers of duties and rights across several dimensions, such that a serf, even a serf’s wife, had a position where an emperor or pope owed her a certain inviolate respect. The battles of the Middle Ages seem to be over who owed whom exactly what level of fealty, with the Church presumed beyond discussion to be distinct and hold honor and duty apart from the king.

Not so much, in the East, where emperors from the earliest days saw it to be an obvious right and duty of theirs to meddle even in theology, let alone in who got to be patriarch. (2)

But, alas! No time for that in 15 minutes.

Related imageD. So, writing. Only able to throw an hour here and there at it for the time being, but it may be that’s just a well – I think I need to reach a critical mass of ideas, and I’m not *quite* there.

What’s happening: I started with a broad arc that ended in a life-or-death decision being made by a young girl in an intense situation. I’d outlined a lot of the social conditions that would lead up to this point, as well as the technology that would be required – it’s space stuff, trying to keep the science pretty hard. Now, details: I had to describe in detail where they were going, including describing and naming all the celestial objects (complete with backstories), describe how they get there, and – this is still skeletal – describe the culture(s) involved.

Then, I reached the point where I needed to name and describe all the people. Um, I’m guessing other writers do this first? Because it’s not a story unless people care about the girl making the decision and the people whose lives are in the balance. So, now, in this background – and the background still needs a lot of work – I’m outlining 3 or 4 (going with 4 for now) families who travel together with thousands of other explorers/colonists to the stars, marry into each other, feud – and produce this remarkable girl upon which the fate of many – including many of the members of these families – depends.

And that, my friends, is the actual story, not the tech and the alien worlds. It’s Sci Fi, as the story could not exist without the science, but these people now crowd my brain. These people, so far, only lurk in my head. Once they start to keep me up at night, I’ll have something.

One of the ancestors of the girl, a great-great grandmother, is introduced here. (BTW: much cleaned up that preface – thanks for all the feedback.)

All in all, fun, but not tending to produce any pages I might throw up here.

  1. Yes, St. Gregory VII is 11th century, but he had a big hand in starting the whole medieval dawn so beautifully described by Chesterton in Ch II of his biography of St. Francis. 
  2. Gregory VII was the last pope to ask and receive imperial permission to be pope, in the late 11th century; yet, over the centuries, many kings and emperors claimed veto power exercised through their cardinals. The last cardinal to veto the decision of the College of Cardinals in the name of his King was the Prince-Bishop of Krakow, who vetoed the leading papabile on orders from the Holy Roman Emperor – in 1903! The outraged Cardinals then voted in Pius X, who promptly and strenuously rejected any idea that kings could overrule the Cardinals. Only took 1900 years!

In Search of One Good Hat

Something like this. I might be sold on a tasteful brown; black is too hip for the room. And patterns/white are right out. 

Off later this afternoon to a conference in, of all places, the Mall of America. I’ve heard rumors. Never liked roller coasters much, and am too old for that sort of thing. So: since my doctor wants my bald head covered (that 20 years of sunburned SoCal youth/melanoma thing), I’ve decided to make lemonade: there’s got to be a decent hat somewhere in a place with the chutzpah to call itself the Mall of America. Right?

Am taking an extra day to rent a car and drive down to La Crosse, WI, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church building is a masterpiece by Duncan Stroik, whose presence at Notre Dame single-handedly raises my opinion of that otherwise mephitic institution out of the gutter. (1)

He also designed the chapel at Thomas Aquinas College, which it is interesting to compare with the near-contemporary building of the Cathedral in Los Angeles. It is safe to say that, barring disaster, generations of faculty, students, their families and visitors will love and find great inspiration in the chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at TAC. They do now. It is also safe to say, I think, that a cathedral designed so that you need an ‘overview’ section – a program, like in modern art museums – to explain what you’re looking at stands to be as baffling, if not out and out as repulsive, to future generations as it is to any lover of beauty today. The tapestries are gorgeous – and they don’t need a program. The statue of Mary at the Annunciation that graces the entrance, while a beautiful work in itself, is a baffling choice as a statement piece – again, you’d need a program to explain it. The building itself is such a self-conscious rejection of the traditions and feeling of the millions of Catholics who inhabit LA as to be hard to understand as anything but a conscious insult. A big beautiful church building based on beloved church buildings from *any* of the myriad cultures represented in LA – Mexican, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese would work as well as anything strictly European – would have been instantly loved, instead of in need of constant explanation.

The bad news: because of its cost and its construction – thousands of tons of steel reinforced concrete – it is likely to be a century or more before it gets replaced. I fantasize about a billionaire convert cutting a deal with the Archdiocese – here’s a billion to pay off debts and fund new programs, provided you let me build you a new cathedral. We can convert the existing into the (weirdly designed) parking structure or warehouse it more closely resembles.

And then he hires Stroik.

A man’s gotta dream.

This Thursday, my beloved is taking the Feasts & Faith group for me at church while I shop for a hat. This week, we’re observing the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a commemoration of, among other things, Christendom’s surprising victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The 15 to 30 people who show up are going to get, in addition to the stories of saints, pictures of artwork and church buildings, and the Sunday Scripture reading, a brief recap of the situation leading up to the battle and from the battle up until today, largely based on this. (2) The things my wife puts up with.

Feasts and Faith is an experiment. What if you spent an hour a week trying to get a feel for Catholic culture and tradition as a gateway to discipleship? There are a million ways to God, and I’m biased by my own experiences, of course, but I find it inspiring and comforting to see that the Church, despite the many and grievous failings of us, her sheep, has nonetheless spread to the whole world and inspired and fed sanctity and beauty everywhere. As is her job.

That I should appoint myself to do this, to lead the tour, as it were, is laughable. Inspired by St. Phillip Neri, I’m trying to embrace the absurdity and do good anyway. All our efforts are ridiculous in and of themselves, why should mine be any different? Then, to top it off, I make my poor wife lead the day I’m gone. May God have mercy on us!


  1. Am sorely temped to quip that Notre Dame’s relationship to Catholic higher education stands in the same relationship as Bill’s and Hillary’s partnership stands to marriage. But that would be mean. To at least one of the parties.
  2. A better and much more detailed explanation of the background situation by Mike Flynn can be found here, here and here.

Being Rash for Christ

When reading the lives of the saints, it’s common to see both a relentless practical disposition and utter spontaneity side by side in the same person. This is that whole Catholic both/and thing Chesterton among others likes to go on about. Thus, great saints will typically devote themselves to a rigorous, no excuses life of prayer and discipline AND run off to convert the Saracens at the drop of a biretta. Or kiss the leper, give somebody the clothes off their backs, take a condemned man’s place – that sort of thing.

A certain tiny rash act on my part, not remotely in the league of anything an actual saint would do reflects,  I hope, a tiny bit of the spirit of the thing: I will, it seems, be in charge of a bit of continuing Catholic education at our parish. Because the director said I could do a class, and so I submitted an outline and that was that.

Here’s what I’ll be trying to do. First note my abiding hatred of the graded classroom model, so imagine this as being done in a way to defeat that model (which lurks, after 12+ years of Pavlovian training, in our minds despite our dislike of it and despite even efforts to root it out) so as to allow actual personal relationships to be formed – which is by far my most obvious weakness as a ‘teacher’. People are just so much more demanding than living in my own head! Anyway:

Feasts and Faith: Continuing Catholic Education Continue reading “Being Rash for Christ”

Tuesday Mish-Mash

(Sort of clearing the tabs in my head – what could be any more Yard Sale of the Mind than that?)

Staying away from the news, which reports on our wretched hive of scum and villainy, and instead getting all domestic:

A. Freight and Salvage is a music venue in Berkeley that does a lot of folk/ethnic music. They also run a summer Fiddlekids day camp that our youngest attended this year – hang with the fiddlers, learn new tunes, some folk dancing and do a little art. Sounds like fun.

IMG_2841While there for the end-of-camp concert, we picked up tickets to see the Savoy Family Cajun Band last week, who were a lot of fun. Nice folks, good musicians, great tunes.

When we entered the venue, the manager, a woman who recognized us from Fiddlekids, came over and was very friendly and solicitous. She has the right job for her personality. Later, once the show began and I looked around, another possible (if less generous) reason sprang to mind: I, just under 60, was one of the younger people there. We were one of maybe 3 families with kids, there were a few folks in the 20 – 40 age range, but the majority were, frankly, aging hippies. This observation was confirmed by the slight wiff of the weed one got in the lobby during intermission.

We (even I!) might well represent the future of Freight and Salvage, as the existing clientele is largely north of 70, some quite a bit north.

I really like the venue, I wish it well. Not sure how often I’ll be able to make it over to Berkeley, though.

B. Money puts the ‘fun’ into ‘fungible’. Just wanted to say that.

C. Younger daughter, who bakes up a storm (we’re a family of cooks and bakers – tough break, I know) decided to make Baked Alaska for 4th of July dinner:


This entailed making ice cream (a vanilla-raspberry swirl), cake from scratch and the meringue topping (I don’t care for meringue, but this was yummy).

Where do my kids get this crazy overboard enthusiasm for DIY stuff? Oh, yea:

D. Since I’ve only got a million books to read, a bunch of reviews to write, a short story to finish by week after next (more on that later) along with all the duties entailed by being the Dad Incumbent, I decided to build this:


This is sort of the larval stage of a wood-fired pizza oven. I was testing out the arch support frame when I stopped for the day and took this shot. This is just the base – the actual oven will go on top, after I finish the decorative brickwork (arches are fun!) and pour the oven slab (8 cubic’ of concrete with rebar suspended 32″ off the ground  on top of those cinder blocks – piece of cake! I’m insane!)

Why would any sane man pushing 60, with semi-bad knees and a standard-issue back willingly start a project that consists of 1. lifting numerous heavy things over and over; 2. spending lots of time on one’s hands and knees; 3. several MONTHS to complete?

Someone asked me: why are you building a pizza oven? I was brought up short: I have no idea. Must have sounded like fun at the time.

But it is cute, right?

E. Home Improvement Project Gone Bad: I don’t have a picture, and I probably won’t take one, but, in the annals of DIY projects, I think I may have hit Pointlessly Complex Bottom. Background: we compost. Out back by the shed is a plastic stackable compost bin we’ve had for years. However, rats have long found our compost bin. In the past, using traps and poison (not in the compost, obviously, but near enough by), I’ve managed to keep them under control.

Not any more. These are either smarter, tougher rats, or they’ve grown immune to poison, or something, because they don’t die and they’ve gnawed their way through the plastic and into the bin, they are increasing in number to the point where putting out compost tends to produce an audible and often visible scramble (yuck!) in the surrounding bushes.

So, DIY me decides: I’ll build a rodent-proof compost bin! I’ve got piles of junk lying around – I’ll just wing it! So, I go survey the material lying up against the shed for Candidates.

Aha! thinkest me – there’s an old slatted oak futon frame just moldering back there! I’ll repurpose it, thereby removing an eyesore and repurposing a stupid hippie piece of garble garble in a poetically fulfilling way.

It gets worse. Instead of grabbing a couple pieces of plywood and throwing together a box, maybe put some wire mesh on it to blunt any nasty little teeth that might attempt to chew through, and soaking the thing in water proof sealer AND BEING DONE WITH IT, I took dozens of little oak slats and assembled them into 3 10″ high stackable squares lined with galvanized wire screen, THEN lined that with some old wainscotting material we had left over from the remodel 10 years ago – which required cutting and installing dozens of little pieces. THEN make a couple top and bottom pieces complete with the wire screen, to close the rodent-proof loop. THEN seal it up with that green copper anti-fungal stuff for wood in contact with the soil, THEN paint the whole thing with paint left over from the remodel just to get rid of some paint.

Aaaaah! Shoot me now! I’m not done yet, and I get kick-myself-in-the patootie urges every time I look at it. Could’ve thrown a perfectly acceptable plywood box together in under an hour, but NO! Hours of labor, actual money spent (for the wire screen) on this! Hundreds of screws, with countersunk holes, because the screws I had weren’t quite long enough. Dozens of little pieces of oak, trimmed to fit, carefully installed, covered with wire, finished with wainscotting… All while I have a pizza oven and a short story to finish.

I am clearly out of my mind. But the futon frame is gone. Mostly.

F. I just like this picture, taken in our kitchen, of my daughter, her grandmother and some friends at the table (made that table. Theme here?). The color and composition were accidental and remarkable. Well, to me, at least. IMG_2845


Earth Day: A History of Violins

Musing on this most holy of days:

1. People like a tidy planet. People like critters and trees, free-flowing rivers and streams, dolphin-filled seas and clear, starlit skies. Right after we’ve taken care of feeding, clothing and housing ourselves and fending off barbarian murderers, we humans tend – all evidence points to this, just look around – to tidy up, set areas aside and otherwise keep the planet in a pleasing state. This is not speculation – Earth Day itself is a result of this basic desire for a nice place to live.

Even strip miners, lumberjacks and petroleum engineers generally want their little corner of the planet to be nice, and so can understand other’s desire for a nice place to live, too. Often – you’ll be flabbergasted to hear this – they can be reasoned with. We do ask them to balance the desires of urban-dwelling iPhone-using Prius-driving sophisticates for the raw materials and cheap energy that make their low-fat latte, light foam lifestyles possible with their desire for nothing bad to ever happen to anything in Nature.

Unless of course the Bad Thing is the Circle of Life manifesting itself as baby caribou paralyzed by terror being disemboweled alive by wolves – something like that, it’s not often clear. And policies that will condemn Africans, say, to death by malaria or permanent energy-starved poverty are OK to our current betters in the name of saving the planet.  So clarity isn’t a strong suit of Earth Day participants in general.

So let us remember the earth, this day, a tiny jewel in the firmament, as meaningless as the life of a single amoeba, as pointless as the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, as doomed as the red giant which will eventually consume it – except for the souls of the billions of people who have lived, do live, and will live upon it. Long may its beauty and utility reign!

2. The chief form celebrating Earth Day takes is having members of a hemp-vested priesthood lead the faithful in Lamentations, and to entreat their collective omphalos for progressively  more dire prophecies of the Apocalypse.  Here are the predictions made at the 1st Earth Day back in 1970, via the Oracle Wikipedia:

  • Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for the first Earth Day, wrote, “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
  • Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, stated, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
  • Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, stated, “… by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
  • Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, predicted that between 1980 and 1989, 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would starve to death.
  • Life Magazine wrote, “… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”
  • Ecologist Kenneth Watt stated, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
  • Watt also stated, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

In accordance with this now-hoary tradition, we should expect sincere and possibly sweaty (1) panic mongers, knuckles white, to make any number of equally wrong and stupid predictions this year as well. Ice sheets melting, deserts spreading, sea levels rising, dogs and cats living together – that sort of thing.

The anti-Cassandra effect is in full force: these people will be believed no matter how wrong they have shown themselves to be in the past. No evidence to the contrary will ever sway those for whom the destruction of earth at human hands is their deepest religious belief, nor will any prediction of doom be judged too preposterous to promote as gospel.

3. Our youngest son is learning to play the violin. He recently got large enough to use a full-size violin. He is borrowing a violin I gave to his older sister back when she played. This violin I got from my father, who in turn got it from his father – the instrument is about 125 years old, a run of the mill fiddle made in France back when you could sell violins to lots of people.

When I had it worked on by John Jordan years ago, he told my daughter to never take it out of the country, because US Customs might not let her bring it back in. The tailpiece is made of tortoise shell – common enough a century ago, but trafficking in (possibly) protected species parts today. John had horror stories.

So now our diligent federal employees are protecting us and our French tortoise friends from the terror of little girls playing their great grandfather’s old violins. In the name of protecting the planet. Reminds me of the Gibson Guitars wood scandal of a few years back. Not that anything done to save Gaia from evil, evil humans could ever be motivated by anything other than unalloyed virtue…

4.  Just imagine how much more beautiful this scene was before a bunch of French villagers mucked it up with their quaint little farms and village:

french village

Or not. Maritain pointed out the beauty inherent in proper human activity – that, as beautiful as nature is in itself, adding beautiful works of man improves it. He used the example of a French farm – that French farmers took some care that their farms be beautiful. A natural scene was improved by adding an attractive French farm or village to it. (2)

To call nature “Unspoiled”, when that term is applied to part of the natural world merely lacking any evidence of the presence of humanity, is blasphemy.

We’re not “destroying the planet” when we turn it to our uses. Farms and cities and indeed all works that man makes in the course of being human are, in themselves, improvements and fulfillments of nature. Of course, we can do it badly, making ugly or ill-conceived things. But our very human drive as makers is part of our Nature, and part of our being the image of God, and thus exercising it glorifies and completes the natural world. This is what the natural world is for: to be the home to Man and our works. That is its purpose and glory .


  1. Or is that sweaty and possibly sincere?
  2. He was contrasting French farms with American farms, where the farmers often left huge piles of junk and trash right out in the open. He said he’d never seen such a thing growing up in France. (Wish I could remember where I read this – must be close to 30 years ago.)

Sustermans the Magnificent

Even more random than usual…

For no reason, woke up this morning with the thought that, when those Renaissance Florentines added ‘the Magnificent’ to Lorenzo de Medici‘s name, maybe they were making fun of him. Italians are like that. We’re approaching 30 years of marriage, my wife and I, to each other, even, which means we are also approaching 30 years since we went to Florence together. I guess that’s why all these old dead Italians are on my mind.

Cosimo de Medici  (27 September 1389 – 1 August 1464) was a tough old bird, but suffered a fate common to high-achieving fathers everywhere: his son Piero (1416 – 2 December 1469) wasn’t quite up to managing what he left him. (When you are distinguished from other Piero de Medicis by the suffix ‘the Gouty’ you kinda know you’ve not exactly distinguished yourself. On a more positive note, his grandson was Piero the Unfortunate, so I suppose Piero the Gouty at least avoided being the most pathetic Piero de Medici.)

Cosimo, like the good mafia don he was, believed in laying low. No ostentatious buildings (1) or monuments – just be content with knowing you own and run things. Like Whitey Bulger living like a monk (2) in Boston and heading down to the Caribbean to spend his money and party, Cosimo believed it wise to not flaunt his wealth in the faces of the people who could have him banished, put a contract out on him or otherwise make life unpleasant.(3)  Better to patronize the arts and get a reputation for culture and refinement. His son Piero the Gouty more or less followed suit.

This brings us to Piero’s son Lorenzo (1 January 1449 – 9 April 1492). One does not pick up the sobriquet ‘the Magnificent’ by laying low. Larry commissioned (4) a few less than subtle works to the glory of God and State via the more essential glory of Larry and his family. ‘Understated’ would not be an adjective leaping to mind when viewing the Medici’s parish church, San Lorenzo, for example.

The Omphalos of Wikipedia says: “In 1471, Lorenzo calculated that since 1434, his family had spent some 663,000 florins (about US$460 million today) on charity, buildings and taxes. He wrote,

“I do not regret this for though many would consider it better to have a part of that sum in their purse, I consider it to have been a great honour to our state, and I think the money was well-expended and I am well-pleased.”

Lorenzo represents a high point, taste-wise, in Medici art patronage. When you have Botticelli and Michelangelo working for you, it’s a bit hard to go too far wrong. Later Medicis fared not quite so well.

This brings us back around to the title of this post. Justus Sustermans (28 September 1597 – 23 April 1681) is a perfectly good artist, wonderful even, who painted for  Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany for much of his career. He had the reputation of being the finest portrait painter in Italy. Check it out.

Here’s the problem: if you visit Florence, you will no doubt spend a few days checking out the Ghiberti Doors, Michaelangelo’s David, the Giottos and Botticellis in the Uffizi, the Fra Angelicos in San Marco, and on and on. Then, maybe, you’ll cross the Ponte Vecchio and drop in on the Pitti Palace. Which is positively packed with Sustermans.

Sustermans, I’m told by the Wikipedia article, grace the walls of many fine museums around the world. They really are fine art, by a really good artist. But if you’ve just been looking at the David, or Primavera (much better in person than any picture), and a hundred more timeless masterpieces, and your brain is full and feet are tired, by about the 50th Sustermans, you’re pretty much beyond making considered esthetic judgements.

I, being somewhat irreverent, and drunk with the joy of walking around Florence with my new bride, took to turning to her as we entered a new gallery in the Pitti Palace (there are many) and spotted one of the inevitable Sustermans and saying, deadpan, “That is the finest Sustermans I have ever seen.”

Maybe you had to be there.

  1. Well, there is this, which, while hardly your middle-class 15th century town home, comes off as elegant understatement once one gets a gander at the appalling grandeur of the Pitti Palace.
  2. Apart from the murder and mayhem – sort of a Dan Brown style monk, as it were.
  3. I love this tidbit from Wikipedia:

On Easter Sunday, 26 April 1478, in an incident called the Pazzi conspiracy, a group including members of the Pazzi family, backed by the Archbishop of Pisa and his patron Pope Sixtus IV, attacked Lorenzo and his brother and co-ruler, Giuliano, in the Cathedral of Florence. Giuliano was killed, but Lorenzo escaped with only a stab wound. The conspiracy was brutally put down by such measures as the lynching of the Archbishop of Pisa and the death of the Pazzi family members who were directly involved.

Got that? Your competitors put the hit on you. On Easter. In the Cathedral. In response, your family arranges to have the Archbishop of a neighboring city lynched and participating members of the competing family snuffed. I wonder if something along the lines of a horse’s head showed up in the Pope’s bed? This is the same pope to whom Lorenzo sent Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, and other Medici court artists to do a little light decorating in the Vatican, thus firming up the Medici-pope relationship. Somehow. It’s Italian, we are not supposed to understand, exactly. Just know Don Corleone would have approved. It’s just business, I’m sure.

Italian politics are indistinguishable from mafias for most, if not all, of Italian history.

4.  Or caused to be commissioned – his actual role in getting art paid for is evidently a matter of dispute.