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Write a jingle, stir up the church, win a T-shirt

Only in America do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries -- and a diet Coke, notes Sic’s friend the philosopher. And only in America, he goes on, do we leave cars worth tens of thousands in the driveway and fill the garage with junk.

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Don’t let anyone tell you Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius. For one thing, he painted the famous “Last Supper” on the dampest wall of that Milan refectory. So the painting soon grew a fungus fed by smog, kitchen grease and the bad breath of generations of Dominicans. But now experts have cleaned it up, so we can see what the disciples were eating -- spaghetti and meat balls.

No painting gets cleaned, however, without Prof. James Beck of Columbia University turning up at the unveiling and carping that the work has been desecrated. He griped at “The Last Supper” and before that at the Sistine Chapel restoration. Beck, of course, is himself an art restorer. His technique is to rub fried eggs on the old masters.

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A book arrived for review on Sic’s desk: I’m Judgmental, You’re Judgmental, by Terry D. Cooper. Are they kidding -- with a title like that no reviewer would risk it.

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But the real scoop about Leonardo’s “Last Supper” is that when all the goo was scraped away the restorer found a picture of Elvis.

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If you haven’t been keeping up with philosophy you’ll get a jolt next time you open Philosophy Today. Sic dove into vol. 42, only to be confronted by “Illeity According to Levinas,” followed quickly by “Moving Beyond the Face Through Eros: Levinas and Irigaray’s Treatment of The Woman as an Alterity.” This makes Levinas Philosopher of the Week. He is followed by “Dasein Gets Pregnant.” Is this proper in a philosophy publication. Give Sic back Plato and Yogi Berra and, darn it, Aquinas was no slouch either. The P Today offerings are described by the co-editors as “this haute cuisine for the mind.” This Space prefers hamburger.

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Here’s Sic’s favorite nugget from Philosophy Today:

“It is suggested that we might read Levinas on il y a and illeity as ‘a translation of the Neoplatonic difference between the elementary non-being and the hyperousia of God’s non-being.’ Yet there remains a radical difference insofar as the move beyond occurs in the intramundane encounter with the Other. In this context God is to be understood with reference to the Law that enables us to distinguish the voice of ‘Il’ from the anonymous rumbling of il y a.”

Sic couldn’t agree more.

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Back in the lowbrow NYTimes one finds the headline: “Chimps Exhibit, er, Humanness, Study Finds.”

The chimps, Pan troglodytes to be exact, turn out to be much like us. Some “are dainty and meticulous, poking a twig into an anthill and then nibbling the insects one by one. They daub their bodies clean with napkins made of leaves.”

Others “are like children polishing off the cake batter, sweeping up dozens of ants on a stick and then consuming the entire swarm with a single satisfied swipe.” In other words, “cultural variation” -- the very thing we thought made us human.

But the really weird part is a couple of chimps from Uganda, wearing Addidas gear and sunglasses, cruising the colony on little Harleys and singing “Three Blind Mice.”

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If you didn’t read these “Totally Useless Facts” here, you wouldn’t read them at all:

Men can read smaller print than women; women can hear better. (If you need sources for such stuff, we would refer you to Philosophy Today where footnotes are de rigueur.)

Barbie’s measurements if she were life-size: 39-23-33. (One of these is her IQ; we’re not sure about the other two.)

Percentage of American men who say they would marry the same woman if they had it to do all over again: 80%.

Percentage of American women who say they’d marry the same man: 50%.

The phrase “rule of thumb” is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn’t beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb. (This probably explains why fewer women than men would marry the same spouse over again.)

An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.

The longest recorded flight of a chicken is thirteen seconds.

The Eisenhower interstate system requires that one mile in every five must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies.

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Lewis F. Ginnett writes from the Coast that a recent Sic column mentioned certain Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence but omitted the following worthies: Srs. Ann Drogyny, Donna Nobis, Esther O’Genn, Helena Handbasket. Sorry, girls.

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“Jingles the key to filling churches,” goes a headline in England’s Catholic Herald. This is big news. No less an eminence than Milan’s Cardinal Martini, a possible pope and therefore presumably working on his infallibility, wrote that the church needs to advertise. If it works for your local Ford dealer, why shouldn’t it work for God? was his gist.

This Space, to get the ball rolling, hereby launches a worldwide competition for the jingle most likely to get the church rollicking again. There are no rules. If you don’t know what a jingle is, make it up. Then send the whole catastrophe to “Jingles for Jesus” care of NCR.

There is, as one might expect from Sic, a prize for the winner, to wit, a T-shirt donated by NCR’s own John Allen, who says this garment shrunk in the wash, but we know better. (It is still quite commodious.) This isn’t just any T-shirt, however: It has an “enormous” picture of the pope on the back and “Wojtylaphile” is inscribed on the front with the pope’s coat of arms. It was purchased by Allen in the Steubenville University bookstore, the only bookstore, Allen says, that devotes more shelf space to statues of Our Lady than to books. Eager to make up for not wearing it, Allen adds there’s a monstrance on the sleeve.

This prize will not be awarded unless there is at least one entry. We have standards.

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German Jesuit Fr. Heinrich Pfeiffer has found the legendary veil of Veronica, according to news reports. The “small piece of stained pale cloth” had been ignored in the abbey of Monopello, high in the Appennine Mountains, for 400 years. A photograph of the Veil has been compared with the Turin Shroud, and the pictures match: “The faces are the same shape, both have shoulder-length hair with a tuft on the forehead and the beards match.”

Not everyone agrees. “I’d put it on the same level as seeing the face of Muhammad in a potato,” said one.

(Does Beck the restorer know about this veil?)

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As luck would have it, Sic made a similar find in our personal basement: the actual sword with which Peter cut off the soldier’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemani. The sword has had a spotty career, including a star turn at the Inquisition -- where this photo was taken, though some say the background looks suspiciously like Sic’s place.

National Catholic Reporter, July 16, 1999