man with black hat
the daily musings ...
of faith and culture, of life and love, of fun and games, of a song and dance man, who is keeping his day job.
Sunday, June 30, 2002
Friday, June 28, 2002
“A young man from a small town, with a very large imagination...”
Recently there was a discussion among Catholic weblog owners concerning the mention of personal material on their sites. One insight shared by the discussion's hostess, Eve Tushnet, is worth noting:
"...[W]hen it's presented with a little more care for one's own privacy, the personal aspects of blogging can help other people really understand your philosophy -- the underlying worldview that unites your stances on, say, gun control, Bruce Springsteen, and race relations in Milwaukee. Blogs help show that politics isn't -- or shouldn't be -- some disconnected policy preferences; political beliefs should flow from underlying ethical and ultimately metaphysical beliefs that you live with all day long. (Or try to, anyway.)..."
In any case, most "bloggers" would have begun their sites with their life story. I needed time to make mine seem interesting.
Washington DC, 2000
My name (as if you didn't catch it by now) is David Alexander. I am a nearly-48-year-old graphic designer working for the Federal government. I live alone in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from what is politely referred to as "the Nation's capital." I have a teenaged son, Paul, from a previous marriage. He lives with his mother, farther out in the hopelessly middle-class Virginia suburb known as Fairfax County.
My roots in the southwest quadrant of Ohio date back over a century and a half, at least five generations. The majority of my ancestors came from the Alsace-Lorraine region of what was sometimes Germany, but what is now France.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, just three days after Christmas, and the worst time of the year to have a birthday. My parents have always sent me a card, if no one else did, and if only out of guilt.
When I was still in the cradle, we moved to a village just east of Cincinnati (and closer to our "kin and ken") known as Milford, where I lived until I moved to DC in 1980. The oldest of four -- boy, girl, boy, girl, in that order -- I attended Catholic grade school and high school. From there, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati. After two years of various studio assignments, I got the big break from my rich uncle. (Sam. Maybe you know him.) I have been on his payroll every since.
I am the only member of my immediate family to have left the Cincinnati area. I sign all my letters home, "Your long lost son..."
Along the way, I learned to play both the guitar and the banjo (the latter in the old-time mountain style; I don't do bluegrass), and can fake my way through several other instruments laying around the house. I've also been known to sing. In addition, I have been an avid folkdancer for nearly a quarter century. My latest passion is zydeco, which is the music and dance of the Creole people of southwest Louisiana.
At 11, I became an altar boy; at 17, an Eagle Scout; at 35, a purple belt in karate. I still claim all three titles.
Finally, I read too much for my own good, which was enough to make me think I should never have an unpublished thought -- hence the presence of this site you are reading now.
Following this entry, things can only get better.
(Apologies to John Prine, from whose lyrics the title of this entry originates.)
This weekend, I'll be in the aisle seat...
...for this movie starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
"A nice enough chap..."
"A nice enough chap..."
Mark Shea has written this commentary, concerning my involvement with a Boston-based group known as Voice of the Faithful. This was in response to someone (and I know who you are), accusing me of all manner of apostasy and deception.
Guilt by association can be a nasty business. So is what I would call guerrilla apologetics. The latter requires meeting the adversary where they are. One may risk drawing the wrong kind of attention, as did Our Lord when He dined with tax-collectors and the like. In the face of it all, Mr Shea has brought up a very good point: "[I]nstead of instantly writing off David Alexander (are you sure the guy at this blog is the same as the one in DC?) and declaring him an Enemy Mole, it might be a good idea to, oh, I don't know, talk to him?"
Good call, Mark. Or better yet, one might go out on a limb, and visit the VOTF Message Board, to see what a pain-in-the-ass I have been to any wanna-be reformers. Before lighting the fire at the stake where I am currently tied, kindly read my two essays, Whose Voice? Which Faithful?? What Vision???, and Quo Vadis?, both of which have been sent directly to the officers of the VOTF.
While my works have been all but ignored by the officers, they have been some of the most widely read posts on the board. If I am guilty of "Stockholm Syndrome," the evidence will be found there. Don't hold your breath.
This is the kind of abuse...
...I endure from my friends. (Note: It is only a coincidence that my middle name is Lawrence.)
Life With Father
There has been a lot of bad press about things going on in the Church. But amidst the ashes of the headlines, a phoenix gives rise to hope. Witness this inspiring account in USA Today. Also recommended are two adjoining photo galleries -- The Call to Priesthood, and The Life of a Priest. Thank you, USA Today, for telling us the rest of the story.
For these chosen men, Mark Shea illustrates a bit of unfinished business entitled People Actually Go to These Things!
Now, I didn't exactly say that Baltimore was better than DC...
...but you're right, Karl; maybe I should have.
"Hope I die before I get old..."
John Entwistle, bass player for the British rock band The Who (you know, "the quiet one" standing on the left), is found dead of a heart attack. He was 57.
The Beatles started out playing skiffle, but John and guitarist Pete Townsend began with Dixieland jazz. There's a message here somewhere.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
The Black (Hat) Watch: End of Day Seven
Until now, I have escaped the otherwise inescapable notice of the notorious nihil obstat, self-apppointed proofreader of weblogs identified as "Catholic." My thanks go out to every English teacher I ever had. This would include my father, who used to be one in his younger days. He taught me how to think, which I needed to know before anyone could teach me how to write. Thanks, Dad.
Boys will be boys.
Amidst the crises of church and state in the world today, three of my fellow parishioners at St Blog's -- namely, Tim Drake, Mark Shea, and Pete Vere -- are currently locked in mortal polemics, over what may emerge as one of the burning issues of our time.
May the best man win. Whatever. You guys are way out of my league.
"A man after my own heart..."
I am described thus by Dave Pawlak, owner of the weblog entitled Pompous Ponderings. Dave and I shared many a thread on various "trad catholic" lists, such as cingreg and tradx. No doubt he rejoices this week, as a new bishop is appointed to Milwaukee, and better days are ahead in that fair city and its environs.
Pray hard, Dave. The new guy's gonna need it!
mwbh Makes "The List"
Gerard Serafin announces the entry of both me and this site, to the list of "New Parishioners of St Blog's." Gerard is known to many in the Washington/Baltimore area for his promotion of the unity of Christians -- especially the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions.
Gerard's efforts can rightfully be considered "true ecumenism," which is best described by C S Lewis in a letter he wrote a half century ago:
"I believe that, in the present divided state of Christendom, those who are at the heart of each division are all closer to one another than those who are at the fringes."
Now, if I could just find a parish in the real world where I feel like I belong. (Yes, a story for another day.)
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Random Thoughts on Community
The other day, Summa Contra Mundum posted these thoughts on the misappropriation of the term "community:"
"I was sitting at daily mass this morning when during the intercessions, the priest asked that we pray for our faith community. This word 'community' has become very common in recent years, almost to the point of being devoid of meaning... For example, at mass this morning the only thing I had in common with the other people there was that I attended daily mass today. We don't even know each other..."
In more than twenty years of living in the DC area, I still feel like I'm from out of town. I'm lucky if my best friends here return my calls within a few days. The city seems plauged by an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Or maybe we're all just too damn busy trying to run the world. In any case, I'm afraid Harry Truman may have been right when he said: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."
About two years ago, I found some respite from the situation, when I discovered Baltimore. Now, I always knew it was there, mind you. But it didn't occur to me until then, that a real city with real people was within reach. One night, a bunch of us were leaving a dance at one of the watering holes by the Bay, heading a few blocks over for a bite to eat. I could overhear a few of them talking about growing up Catholic in Baltimore. It was then that I experienced an epiphany: This is just like being back in Cincinnati. That's when I knew I had found a new home.
It became clearer to me earlier this month, when I returned to Ohio for my parents' golden wedding anniversary. My first night back, I started feeling homesick. But for the first time, I wasn't homesick for Cincinnati, but for Baltimore.
In later entries, I will speak more about issues of community-building, including a practical remedy. I'll also have a few things to say about that anniversary. (I hope Mom and Dad have a sense of humor. I had to get mine from somewhere.)
"Ozzy don't preach..."
Is anyone else as tired of watching this family as I am?
Why am I still a Catholic?
Father Bryce Sibley, proprietor of the weblog entitled A Saintly Salmagundi, gives a commentary on the priesthood, written by the late theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in the latter's book Eludications. One of my favorite passages from any book ever written appears elsewhere in the same volume, where von Balthasar answers the question as to why he remains in the Church. It seems a very timely explanation, given the current situation:
"Because it is the only chance to escape from oneself, from this curse of one's importance, of one's own gravity, from the role which is identified with my own person, so that if I lost my role I would end up falling in love with my person: to escape from all this without becoming estranged from man, because God has become man, not in a vacuum but in the community of the Church. I do not doubt for a moment that God's incarnation is intended for all men and that he is sufficiently God in order to reach all whom he will. But he has set up, in the middle of the history of humanity with all its terrors and hells, a marriage bed, splendid and untouchable -- it is portrayed in the Song of Songs -- and even the endless problems of the Church cannot create a fog so thick that it cannot from time to time be penetrated by the light of love which shines from the saints: a love which is naive, which cannot be taken over and built into any program.
"There are vocations in which men are called into the sphere of the fire. They always demand the whole person. Those who have said 'no' remain marked. They burn, but they become cynical and destructive, they smell each other out and hold together. It makes no matter whether they officially leave the Church or remain within her. Anyone with some facility for discerning spirits can recognize them.
"It is up to me, up to us, to see that the Church comes closer to that which in reality she is."
I have been known to give the shorter explanation:
"Because I have nowhere else to go."
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Traditionally, a eulogy is considered inappropriate for a Catholic funeral. Could THIS be the reason?
Yesterday, the one behind the Disputations weblog was incorrectly identified as "Capax Dei." In fact, his name is John DaFiesole. John is also the author of Praying the Post. "Reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee in one hand and a rosary in the other."
Like the ads for the Post say: "If you don't get it, you don't get it."
Whose "spin control" is it anyway?
Kathy Shaidle of relapsed catholic brought this to our kind attention:
"Nine months ago, very few Americans were familiar with the company. It came briefly to widespread attention because of the disproportionate extent to which it suffered, losing approximately 2/3rds of its 1,000 employees headquartered in the World Trade Center.
"Now according to some critics, Cantor Fitzgerald is trying to capitalize from that tragedy in a series of nine television commercials."
The writer asks: "Is it unethical - or even immoral - to try to profit from what occurred in lower Manhattan? Should Cantor Fitzgerald use the accident of geography, that is, where it leased its corporate offices, as a marketer's call to action?"
Without reading the writer's answer, I'm going to give my own.
No. And yes. In that order.
I remember in the wake of 9/11, when the owner of Cantor Fitzgerald appeared on MSNBC. This was not a man for whom money could buy happiness. He lost not only his business, but most of the people with whom he worked every day. He had families calling him about payment of death benefits. With everything gone, he had nothing left to give that to which they were entitled. That such a dilemma tore at the man's conscience was obvious, and he showed it to the world. The one Manhattan power broker who could have earned my sympathy was on the air that night. For I thought of the days when loyalty to an employer was a two-way street; you took care of them, and they took care of you. You never spoke ill of your employer, whether within the building or without. They put bread and butter on your family's table, and clothes on the backs of your children. The least you could do was give them your best in return.
Then came the 1980s, with mergers and acquisitions, and hundreds of people let go at the drop of a hat. No time to say goodbye with a security guard standing there, while you clear your desk into a cardboard box. I know of one company, where the president announced the laying-off of several thousand employees. He and the board of directors then voted him and his 99 vice presidents huge year-end bonuses. After all, they saved the company millions.
Pigs. All of them.
In his 1891 social encyclical Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), Pope Leo XIII wrote of how work was created for man, as opposed to man for work.
The man behind Cantor Fitzgerald appears to have learned his lesson. He wants to tell the world. In so doing, there may be little to distinguish him from others who would capitalize on tragedy.
Perhaps he has the right to capitalize on his own tragedy. Perhaps his comrades-in-arms do as well. I can live with this. I've seen worse. So have most of you.
Monday, June 24, 2002
The verdict is in: I am now "fully functional." Thanks, Mark.
In case you missed the grand unveiling last Friday, my raison d'etre for this site can be found clicking... well, on "raison d'etre."
Yo, Faddah! Youse gotta plane ta catch, huh?
John Schultz of Catholic Light has this concern:
"I know a priest who insists that every verse of every hymn is sung for hymns/songs picked for the liturgy... I believe the reason he does it is that he considers most hymns to be complete prayers... Let me know if you have any thoughts, please."
You call that a problem, John? I'll tell you a problem. It's the priests who think they have to bolt down the main aisle at the first bar of the opening hymn, get in place before the first verse is over, and spend two or three verses just standing up there, like birdies in the wilderness. If they had any class, they would simply wait until the first verse is over before nudging the altar boys down the runway, walk with some awareness of the formality of the occasion, thus using the processional hymn for... well, processing. What a concept!
Some of these guys are the same ones who admonish us for wanting to duck out before the closing hymn is over. I say they're just jealous because we've got a head-start.
John's not the only guy on top of things. His brother Steve, also at Catholic Light (proving that astuteness runs in the family), is compiling a list of "reform" groups. Meanwhile, Disputations, operated by one identified only as "Capax Dei," has founded one known as Reform the Hell out of The Church. Obviously he has discovered what the rest of us have missed:
"...good-for-nothing bishops; priests who do not humbly accept criticism; poor congregational singing; noisy children and the parents who spoil them; parking lot traffic snarls between the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Masses on Palm Sunday; anything to do with Massachusetts politics; and youth ministers."
Oh, another thing, Cap: bishops who outlaw bingo! What are they thinking? How are we gonna pay for all the lawyers???
Now... where can I run like Hell to sign up?
"Monday morning, so good to me..."
First of all, my thanks to Pete Vere, who helped me fix a nasty little code problem, thus making it possible for PC users to access my links (I work on a Mac). Now then...
The weekend went reasonably well. The zydeco house party at Chez Louise was a smash. Lots of people were there whom I didn't know from Adam. I muddled through somehow. Spent Sunday morning with my 16-year old son Paul, who lives with his mom. He was ill, so we attended Mass at the National Shrine, through the magic of television.
Later in the day, my best friend returned home from the beach, and the two of us went out for ice cream.
Life is good... so far.
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Here a link, there a link, everywhere a link, link...
Now appearing to my left (that's your right) are a regular set of links for this site:
St Blog's Parish: A listing of Catholic weblogs (along with those of Orthodox and general Christian professions), compiled by Gerard Serafin.
Cincinnati Enquirer: The newspaper which I delivered early in the mornings when I was nine years old. Any fool can link the Washington Post (Hey, I just did!), but I've got a soft spot for my hometown rag.
TCRNews: Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports: News, opinion, and information on faith, liturgy, and social justice. A comprehensive view of the scene from heaven and earth. Contains a variety of news links.
Et toi!!!: (A cajun expression, which I believe roughly translates as "Hey, you!!!") The Baltimore and Washington Cajun & Zydeco Schedule, sponsored by the Bon Temps Relay Social Club. Every boy needs a hobby.
Friday, June 21, 2002
Here's where to find me...
...this weekend. I'll explain when I get back.
If "nihil obstat" is watching...
...do let me know if I ever end a phrase with a preposition. I've got a real hang-up about that.
"There is nothing wrong with your reception..."
Father Shawn O'Neal, a priest of the Diocese of Charlotte NC, and former rector of the "Onealism" weblog, correctly advises that I should consider altering the color of my background and/or text.
He's right, you know. This is what happens when you dive headlong into a technology, with just enough experience to get you into trouble.
I selected this particular "template," to set myself apart from other sites, some of which are quite similar in appearance. That being done, it could use a bit of "tweaking." I want to be able to change the color, and have those changes be applied universally -- to the home page, and to the archives, and all around. You fellow-practitioners of the weblogging trade know to what I am referring. In the meantime, those of you in the viewing audience will find, that a narrow column width will make the viewing easier. Simply adjust your web browser window in the corners, or go to the left side of said window and hit a tab that says "Favorites" (in the case of Explorer), and that should help for now.
Until I get this code thing figured out. It's a little like the stuff I used to do in my old typesetting days. Anybody remember the Compugraphic 7200 series? How about the 8400?
Nah! Didn't think so.
Where have you gone, Andy Warhol?
I first discovered the phenomenon known as "blogging" (that is, the online publishing of "blogs," or weblogs), this past spring, while reading a news site called spintech: a critique of state and culture. Scrolling to the bottom, there it was -- relapsed catholic, described therein as "Catholic crackshot." A kindred spirit, I thought. So I hit the link, and there she was -- the High Priestess of Catholic Blogdom herself, Ms Kathy Shaidle.
My discovery has led me to others -- to Emily Stimpson, whose cheeky irreverence gives way to a talent for making very complicated matters very plain; to Mark Shea, who has the good sense not to take himself nearly as seriously as that which would espouse (or, as he told Vatican Radio, "I'm not writing for the ages on my blog site. I'm not handing down wisdom from Sinai here..."); and of course, to Pete Vere, my favorite Canadian and favorite canon lawyer (that is, a practitioner of ecclesiastical law -- you know, a guy who helps people with annulments. It's a Catholic thing.).
There are many others who have been good enough to correspond with me in recent weeks. They are not mentioned with this entry, but they will be in good time. All have been devoted to matters of their Catholic faith, as it relates to the world around them. All have asked me at the end of our discussions, when are you going to launch your own blog? Soon, I would tell them. Soon.
To that end, I have asked myself, what of life outside the sanctuary door?
In his book The Catholic Milieu, Thomas Storck writes:
"Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue..."
Thus it would seem, that the way in which I was raised was ultimately more than a religion, in terms of pious practices and trying not to have too much fun. It is, rather, what the Greeks called a phronema -- that is, a "mind set," or a "way of looking at things." In the meantime, my circle of friends I see on the weekends, believe I am this deeply spiritual person. Then there are my devout Catholic friends, who are no doubt convinced I am just another irreverent and over-aged party animal.
This experience we call "blogging" has expanded among those who are Catholic, particularly in light of the recent scandals. I certainly have an opinion about those developments. By now I am not alone, and I fear that I have joined the discussion too late to be a leader among the others. So this endeavor shall be a search for a proper niche among the would-be pundits, who pervade cyberspace in increasing numbers.
I shall try to reach people where they are, from the place where I am. This will be my open journal, for stepping into the world with my thoughts, as those in the world knock at the door that is electronic mail.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me.
Laissez les bon temps roulez!