Thursday, January 31, 2008

From our bulging “art imitates life” files...

From the Apple.com notes for the movie Charlie Bartlett, set for re-release in theatres later in February: "An optimist, a truth-teller and a fearless schemer, when Charlie slyly positions himself as his new school’s resident 'psychiatrist,' dishing out both honest advice and powerful prescriptions, he has no idea the ways in which he will transform his classmates, the school principal and the potential of his own life."

The lead character, played by Anton Yelchin, obtains the prescriptions by faking symptoms to the real school psychiatrist, who, like most adults in movies of this genre, are easily duped by the teenaged hero.

The principal is played by Robert Downey, Jr. Am I the only one who sees the irony in that?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Politics and Cults

Arnold Kling, writing for TCS Daily, has this to say about the appearance of a grassroots movement for the nomination and election of Ron Paul to the presidency: "I do not know Ron Paul. He may be wise. He may be decent. But to dismiss all doubts about his judgment and his character would be to succumb to a cult. Let me hasten to add that I do not think of the Paul cult as unique. I am equally loathe to join the Clinton cult, the Obama cult, the Guiliani cult... you name it."

It gets better.
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Friday, January 25, 2008

gloria.tv. the more catholic the better.

This week, in honor of the March for Life, we here at mwbh devote our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy to a video clip from this great Catholic website in Austria, which documents the outlandish behavior of pro-abortion activists who grunt, bark and shriek in the faces of pro-life activists. All this, in the once-very-Catholic city of Vienna.

On the bright side, it's unlikely these bozos intend to reproduce.
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We Have But One Teacher

(Another installment in our occasional "Catholics Are Stupid" series.)

The other day, I met a group of pro-life activists in association with the March for Life. They had never met me before, and wanted a brief introduction, so I gave them one. It happened to include the fact that I was divorced. And even though it happened more than fifteen years ago, the mere mention of is made everybody go "Awwwww..." I quickly moved on, in more ways than one.

It could have been worse. I don't miss that part of my life one bit. But I do regret the effect it had on my son. One area that suffered was his religious education. We ended up pulling him out of Catholic school after kindergarten, in part because the pastor was a... well, a man not known for testicular fortitude, how's that? He was in private Christian day school through the third grade, and in public schools thereafter. But in all that time, he was in what Byzantine Catholics call "Eastern Christian Formation." That is, until high school. Then his mother pulled him out. He didn't like the teacher. She didn't either. He would have had the same teacher the following year. Just one darn thing after another.

By the time he was a senior in high school, several years of estrangement had ended. He had signed up for philosophy class. I told him that a public high school was no place for a Catholic boy to learn philosophy, so I would teach him in addition to the school. I found a series of taped lectures that gave a survey of philosophy with the classical Catholic method grounded in Thomas Aquinas and the Saints. We met once a month, he had a chapter to read, and an outside reading/essay assignment. By the end of the year, his final presentation at school was an argument for the existence of God based on the wisdom of The Angelic Doctor himself.

These days, as is the case with a lot of young men and women, he is in a "search for the truth" mode (which is a nice way of saying he doesn't go to Mass anymore). But on his MySpace page, he still lists among his favorite books, one called "summa theologicae." He read Plato's Republic before graduating, without it being assigned. He has also read Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You and Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

I was reminded of this, as I read a pastor's message from a bulletin of a parish somewhere in New York, one that was excerpted at Creative Minority Report today:

More often, I find, are the truly bizarre complaints: “Why does my child have to memorize the Act of Contrition?” “I don’t want my child to have to do any homework from religious education; he’s too busy already.” “You don’t really expect us to come every week, do you?” “My child doesn’t have to go to confession, she hasn’t committed any sins.” “What’s the big deal if he got a zero on the test, it’s not like it’s the S.A.T. or something.” I am not joking here. These are actual questions posed to me by some St. Matthew’s parents. The purpose of our Catholic Faith is to help people get to Heaven. Its purpose is not to allow people to have nice parties after Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation.

In my own work with kids, I find many of them to be so hyper-scheduled by their parents, that it's a wonder they have time to even be kids. A number of teachers have complained to me personally, of parents who assume the school is the villain whenever there's a problem. (In my experience with the public schools, the villain was less the teacher than it was the administration, and even then sometimes more than others. When they care more about appearances and public relations than the kids, the kids are the losers. You can almost never blame the teachers for that.)

I can't imagine why anyone would want to teach catechism for a bunch of little ingrates anyway, never mind at the bidding of stupid parents who don't have a clue what's going on.

Were it left to me, I would have a group of high school juniors and seniors, small enough to sit around a table. (I would prefer an all-male class, as they would be more likely to relax and be themselves, but it's not a deal-breaker.) It would use the Socratic method of open dialogue, based on a previous reading assignment. My role would be more of a tutor than a teacher, and the students would be almost as responsible for teaching one another as would I. But their point of reference would be less their own personal experiences and viewpoints, than it would something greater. Alas, such a thing is unlikely to be left to me, as some twit chancery bureaucrat would probably have picked some required textbook that talked more about global warming than it would any objective truths.

To say "there is no such thing as an objective truth," is to be wrong by one's own admission. Hopefully, they'd know this by the time I was finished with them. So would their parents.

Probably.

(Images courtesy of Magdalen College of Warner, New Hampshire, which inspired part of this essay. Used without permision or shame.)
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Old Soundtracks Never Die, They Become Niche Formats on FM Radio

Author and Catholic mom Danielle Bean writes for InsideCatholc.com today, about meeting the love of her life in high school, and the music that played in the background of their lives:

The other day, I had a couple of the girls with me in the car while we ran some errands. A familiar song came on the radio and, without pausing to think, I turned up the volume.... The soundtrack that accompanied this particular high school romance was highlighted with big hair and spandex. Personally, I will admit to being an Olivia Newton John fan, but I won't embarrass Dan by sharing with you the name of his favorite band -- except to say that it started with "Bon" and ended with "Jovi."

You should really read the whole thing. It's a touching story. The kids must be lucky. I think their parents are too.

When I was in high school in the early 70s, I knew couples who were glued to the hip since practically the first day of freshman year, and they stayed that way till the end. Some of those couplings ended on the day of graduation, having fulfilled their shallow purpose of companionship and status quo. Others ended in marriage, and of those, some quite happily. Once I asked a girl to a formal dance. She happily agreed, and I happily walked on a cloud for several days. But then, she backed out. She was one of the ladies- and gentlemen-in-waiting, to the king and queen of the event, and was to be escorted by a guy with the same entourage. She and this escort didn't stop there. They're still married to this day. He's a teacher at the high school, and both are big alumni supporters. It was the least they could do.

Was their meeting as a result of my getting jilted part of God's plan? Actually, it was more likely part of her plan, which doesn't make for a good character reference. Maybe that's where God came in. It has always been intriguing to me that He would arrange events in such a way, as to present one with the object of one's vocation, at a time when the vast majority of people are still figuring out who they themselves are, never mind anyone else. Sometimes He knows what we want better than we do ourselves. Sometimes He gives us what we ask for. Sometimes what we ask for, is what we deserve.

Some things we never figure out. That's why they call life a mystery. As I get older, they keep piling up.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don’t Turn Around, Der Tommissar’s In Town!

One of the best kept secrets of the Catholic blogosphere is even a secret to himself. On the rare occasions when Der Tommissar of The Donegal Express descends from the mountaintop to dispense his timeless wisdom (some nonsense about the demands of his personal life -- oh, yeah, that old excuse...), I end up laughing my @$$ off. In his latest pronouncement, he explains why he's not endorsing Guiliani:

You know how in high school he “considered the priesthood”? Let me clue the non-Catholics in here, that’s code for, “I’m a huge dork and don’t want to spend four years getting stuffed into lockers. I know, I’ll pretend I have a vocation. That’ll make the guys hesitate about beating the living hell out of me during my high school career. ‘Dude, what if he does become a priest? He could like, send us to hell or somethin’.'” It is the ploy of only the most pathetic loser.

Well, Dude, I'm Catholic too, and I can attest that Tommy Boy is on to something. I just wish he would more often. Besides, the guys I know who tried that trick still ended up getting stuffed in their lockers.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Morning After

Thousands of pro-life advocates take part in a
Thousands of pro-life advocates take part in a "March for Life" marking the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, in Washington, January 22, 2008. (Jason Reed/Reuters. Used without permission or shame.)

If I didn't see it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it. The Washington Post ran a piece on Page A3 (!!!) of today's edition, about the March for Life. It is heavily biased... in favor of the March! No counter-commentary from the usual upstarts, just quotations from people who came from all over the country only for this one day: "Tens [sic] of thousands of abortion opponents took to the cold, gray streets of Washington yesterday, buoyed by a recent report that the number of abortions in the United States had hit the lowest level in years and vowing to continue the fight... DC police said there were no major incidents at the march." Buy hey, it gets better. On the website, in the Metro section, the Associated Press has an equally sympathetic video. It almost comes off as pro-life propaganda. Yeah, from the AP!

There's a message in here somewhere. What could it be???
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Year of Juno

“This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet.”

It is the largest annual public demonstration in the Nation's capital. Its participants converge from all parts of the country. Most will never participate in a protest march their entire lives, save this one. Although they number in the hundreds of thousands, they are remarkably well-behaved. After all, church groups and mothers with babies in strollers are not much of a threat. Most of all, the mainstream press will barely admit it. When they do, it will be with a photograph of a crowd of them arguing with those who beg to differ. The issue will be played down in the mainstream press. It would be as though the whole event along Pennsylvania Avenue -- "America's Main Street" -- never happened.

So goes the biggest act of denial that one can imagine. But it's getting harder to ignore.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman's "right" to end the life of their unborn child in the 1973 Roe v Wade case, an indefatiguable woman named Nellie Gray began "The March for Life." Over time, later appointments to the High Court are beginning to form a coalition of sorts, in favor of a strict reading of the Constitution as the Founding Fathers would have intended. Such a mindset lifts the veil of "privacy" as a cover for an otherwise heinous act. The recently-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, one who was never seen as part of that coalition, is reported to have said that the 1973 decision was "bad law." Should this be the case, it may fall of its own weight, regardless of who sits in The Oval Office.

There are reports that the number of abortions in the USA is actually going down. What's more, the sacredness of life, and the dignity of the women who bear it, may be starting to influence the popular culture. Juno is a movie directed by Jason Reitman, and starring Michael Cera and Ellen Page, which opened about a month ago. It is obvious that the movie is not intended to preach some pro-life message. Equally obvious, is that it doesn't have to.

Both sides of the abortion issue can probably agree on two things. One is that no one really likes to contemplate it, and that it is when a woman has her back to the wall, and no where to go, that the "termination of a pregnancy" can seem a viable option. The other is that the same woman would, given the choice, rather know that she is not alone in facing this decision, as opposed to the terror of believing that she is.



In closing, there are a number of alternatives for those facing crisis pregnancies...

www.optionline.org
www.rachelsvineyard.org
www.sistersoflife.org
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Agnus Dei

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions. She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.

It is on this feast day, that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Image and information courtesy of Fisheaters.com.)

The "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God") is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small disk of wax worn as a medallion around the neck. It can also be a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax. Either uses remnant material from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome. It is reported that this practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps this would be a good time to revive it. (Image courtesy of Brother Michael Anthony. See also the Catholic Encyclopedia.)
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Is (Why We Still Watch) CNN



Jon Stewart is the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, which actually reports news, but stops long enough to make fun of it. There is more to lampoon than just the stories themselves, but the smugness with which the talking heads (ostensibly) report it. It is that well-crafted approach that makes the show a mildly refreshing alternative to "real" news programs.

This abridged segment features an interview with Jonah Goldberg, contributing editor of National Review and author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left. Stewart could save his mockery for the moments that really need lightening up, like when he interviewed Bill O'Reilly and was smart enough to know who could chew whose head off. But no, he scorns every thoughtful idea Goldberg was trying to express, and then wonders why he can't follow what the guy is saying. Well, Jon, pull you're head out of your hindquarters and shut the hell up long enough to actually listen. That's what an interview is for, right? How can you parody something that isn't there to be parodied? And don't worry, the sycophants in your audience will not forsake you for a modicum of erudition on your part.

Then maybe the rest of us will finally stop watching Keith Olbermann long enough to think you're an improvement.

If only out of desparation.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nice Scenery, Though

This past weekend, I watched the movie "Brokeback Mountain" on one of those movie channels the cable company gave me for free without my even asking for it. Trust me, it was not an occasion of sin in the least, let alone a NEAR occasion. In fact, it was one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen. It would have earned this distinction even without stuff like that first scene where... well, I got up and left the room for a few minutes.

The point is, you take away any hint of unnatural acts, and what was left was one emotionally unavailable guy who mumbled all the time, who married a woman who mumbled most of the time (and I'm guessing they had little worth saying anyway), another guy with puppy dog eyes and little else going for him, and a host of other small town types with lowered expectations. The only sympathetic character in the movie was the daughter of the brown-haired guy, who at least aspired to a normal life, if one with the requisite lowered expectations. And the smartest character in the movie was a jerk of a ranch boss suitably played by Randy Quaid.

Other than that, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and brought back some great memories my last visit to the great Northwest. Yes, I enjoyed that part of it, and could imagine myself seeing it again in person, and wondering how anyone could live in the midst of it and not be amazed every day. (Photo: The author and son at the foot of Burroughs Mountain, nowhere near Brokeback Mountain, but quite near Mount Rainier, August 2003. Used with full and unqualified permission.) Why did I watch it, then? Just to see what the fuss was all about. Now I can finally tell you: absolutely nothing. So a bunch of gay guys feel better about themselves, and a stupid excuse for a movie was all it took.

I need a latte.
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Innovate



Personally, I'm not one to jump on the "global warming" bandwagon. Much of it is based on bad science, and very short memories. (I remember hearing thirty years ago of a coming Ice Age. We must have asked ourselves what could be worse, eh?) What is more believable is the discovery, that for the rest of the planet to enjoy the standard of living we have in the USA, would require the natural resources of SIX of our planets. This alone lends credence to the need to "live simply, so that others may simply live."

That's why the following was good news to me. Here's an innovation making the rounds on YouTube. As the team describes it: "The Aquaduct is pedal powered vehicle that transports, filters, and stores water for the developing world. A peristaltic pump attached to the pedal crank draws water from a large tank, through a carbon filter, to a smaller clean tank. The clean tank is removable and closed for contamination-free home storage and use. A clutch engages and disengages the drive belt from the pedal crank, enabling the rider to filter the water while traveling or while stationary." The Aquaduct Team is composed of John Lai, Adam Mack, Brian Mason, Eleanor Morgan, and Paul Silberschatz (all of whom get this week's Tip of the Black Hat for their ingenuity). In the comments section, they elaborate on their work:

"[We created] this solely for the Innovate or Die contest. We started brainstorming a few months ago, but built the bike and produced the video over a very intense few weeks... We are all designers (professionally), and decided that the main purpose of this prototype vehicle would be to demonstrate an innovative concept, from the engineering to the total interaction. Materials-wise, any prototype will differ from the market product. We expect that if brought to market, it would have to be scaled down to materials that are locally available... Because of the short build timeline, we chose to take an off the shelf filter for the prototype, with the understanding that there are a lot of different ways you can clean water, and that more detailed filter selection could be made for the market product. Given the time and the budget and we would love to design an appropriate filter/system for this demographic."

More information, along with that of other equally ingenious devices, can be found at the website for Innovate or Die.
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Ad Random

This is one of those short breaks in the routine. Meanwhile...

• I found it useful to revise the sidebar that appears at left. The excerpt from Mr Storck's book, which was the inspiration for this weblog, now takes its appropriate position, followed by the video of a John Prine song that provides an inspiration of its own.

• Recently, an online Catholic magazine approached me about being a regular columnist. I'm preparing my first submission, for what I hope to be a regular feature. It's something I've tried before with mixed results, so we'll have to see what happens. When it comes through, you'll be among the first to know.

• The busiest time of the year for a Scout Commissioner is the renewal of unit charters. In this area, they expire at the end of February, so units are being contacted to confirm their rosters, and set goals for the coming year. The process is mostly about chasing down paperwork, signing it where they tell you, and getting it into the local headquarters before the buzzer goes off.

• My current class at the Art Institute is entitled "Marketing Basics," also known to Advertising majors as "Introduction to Advertising." I grew up in a "P&G family," and started my career in consumer advertising, a subject which still intrigues me. So it's been fun. It's also a refreshing break from the past year, of enduring younger students getting past their "high school issues," and departmental faculty with issues of their own. As often as not, I sleep like a baby -- for a change.

• I'm organizing training sessions for the altar servers at the parish where I act as senior master of ceremonies. The prospect of spending quality time teaching the details of the Traditional Low Mass to these guys, is something I'm looking forward to.

• Sometimes, when I'm out in the western suburbs on a weekend, I stop by the restaurant where Paul works, belly up to the bar, and order "the usual." This includes a hot tea with lemon, a light supper, and a chance to see the master at work. From when he was barely two, to the age of twenty-two, the kid still cracks me up.

Well, I guess that's all the news that fits. I'll be back.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Two Left Shoes

In what may or may not be one of his finest moments ("There but for the grace of God..."), my friend and colleague Mark Shea offers his thoughts about the recent motu proprio allowing regular, if juridically extraordinary, use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, also known as the "Tridentine Mass," the "Old Latin Mass," incorrectly as the "True Mass," or bass-ackwardly as "The Mass of All Time."

I should say at this point that Mark is a decent fellow, one who endeavors tirelessly to witness for the Faith. No one taking issue with his writing should doubt that, for they would be wrong.

Everybody got that? Good! Now then...

Shea makes a analogy with the comfort level found in a pair of good-fitting shoes: "The point of shoes is not to notice them, but to walk in them. Shoes you constantly notice are Bad Shoes. Liturgy you focus on is liturgy that's not doing its job, which is to refer us to God, not to itself." This is correct. The purpose of any and all ritual, from time immemorial and in all cultures, is not to call attention to itself, but to draw attention to something beyond itself. That focus can be lost just as easily when introducing the usual hand-holding and back-slapping before Communion, as it can when frowning indignantly on anyone who responds in a low voice in their pew along with the altar servers. In addition to being wrong, both miss the point of being there.

Unfortunately, Shea falls into the same trap, less for what he says than for what is left unsaid, as pundits who don't get paid (and more than a few who do, including some bishops). The most common misconception about Summorum Pontificum, is that the Holy Father issued it to placate the aspirations of a particular group within the Church. In fact, anyone with an eighth-grade reading level will know -- and you actually have to read it to know this, right? -- that the decree was intended for ALL who worship in the Latin rite, whether the Old or the New. Even if they never attend the Old Mass in their lives. Even if they don't want to. Even if they don't need to.

If Shea meant to say this all along, it must have been lost amidst the defense of himself against his detractors. Spend enough time in the arena of public opinion, and they do seem to pile up, don't they?

Now, for all you one-dimensional thinkers out there, the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the only "Mass of All Time." There are many re-presentations of that one event in real time, both in the Western tradition, as well as in the Eastern (where they don't appear to suffer from the same myopia). Some re-presentations are more thoughtfully executed than others, and none of them changes the original. But it is precisely that lack of thoughtful execution that has the potential to subvert the belief of the faithful, in that to which they are witnessing. Irrespective of which set of books is used, Pope Benedict has determined a solution for the whole Church. This is but one component of that solution. People need to understand that. They may have their own souls getting into Heaven to worry about. They should be grateful not to have to answer for over a billion of them.

At the end of the day, maybe we can all stop picking on Mark and talk about something real. But first, click here before responding. You know you want to.

I know you need to.
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joy Behar Explains It All For You

(A continuation of our occasional "Catholics Are Stupid" series.)

I don't watch The View. I work for a living, and even when I'm home, the thought of a bunch of middle-aged harpies who have no idea what they're talking about, but go for the cheap laughs, is not nearly as edifying as a good book. Or for that matter, a cheap novel. At least a cheap novel has something to follow.

But once you understand how a talk show figure like Oprah Winfrey can wield considerable influence on an election campaign -- as at least one Senator from Illinois can attest -- it's not much of a stretch to hear Joy Behar describe how the Church investigates and canonizes saints, and why there aren't as many anymore. Someone forgot to tell her that the late John Paul II canonized a record number, and that saints are judged more for a life of "heroic virtue" than whether or not they forgot to take their Thorazine.



One can wonder how many of the early Christians would sacrifice themselves to being thrown to the lions, to win this sort of approval. Not to mention how many people in America base their most important convictions -- about politics, social welfare, God Himself -- on what a television personality tells them.

Which was the more primitive society? Discuss.

(Or, you could have Father Jonathan Morris explain it all for you, although personally I think the Padre is letting her off a little too easy.)
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ben Stein Revisited



In the new film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein shares with us his heroic and, at times, shocking journey confronting the world's top scientists, educations, and philosophers, regarding the persecution of the many by an elite few. Ben travels the world on his quest, and learns an awe-inspiring truth... that bewilders him, then angers him... and then spurs him to action!

Ben realizes that he has been “Expelled,” and that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired -- for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.

To which Ben Says: "Enough!" And then gets busy. NOBODY messes with Ben.

(Text adapted from official press information for the movie. Used without permission or shame.)
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Monday, January 07, 2008

Are you a gadget guy like me???

Then you're probably already on a plane to Vegas (yeah, baby, YEAH!!!) for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. I couldn't make it this year, but I'd give anything for a day at a place like that. In the future, we'll have cars without drivers, which are not to be confused with cars with people who don't know how to drive.

And who would want to miss that?
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Ben Stein: Bad to the Bone



Coming to a politically-incorrect theatre near you.
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

“Old Christmas is past, Twelfth Night is the last...”

Some of you may remember seeing the issue of US News & World Report, with the cover from the Traditional Latin Mass at Old Saint Mary's in DC. I know the guys in that picture. I've even served there. Let me tell you, it's a really great piece of architecture that was too poor in the 1970s to be subjected to the iconoclastic "experts" of the time. But hey, let's get back to them later in the program. For the moment, let's talk about me...

In the town in Ohio where I grew up, they used to collect all the used Christmas trees that people left out by the street. Then the town would have a huge Twelfth Night bonfire to dispose of the trees, as part of a "Yule Log" celebration. Mind you, this was a town first settled in 1787 (and to this day, basically run as if they owned it) by Methodists. I don't even know if the custom has prevailed to this day. I think they just take the PC way out and collect them as part of a recycling program. Where's the fun in turning something into mulch instead of lighting a match to it, I ask you?

But just when you thought we'd have another year of Christmas celebrations ending abruptly on the 26th, the commercials for Christmas sales (and yes, some of them used the dreaded politically-incorrect term) kept on coming. And it gets better. USA Today reports that the major retailers have discovered the growing Latino market, and with it, their commemoration of "El Día de los Reyes," or the "The Day of the Kings" on Epiphany (also known variously as "Los Tres Reyes" or "Los Tres Reyes Magos"). In Spanish-speaking countries, it is not Santa Claus, but the Three Kings who come bearing... er, uh, gifts. Who knew?

A growing number of retailers are promoting the Hispanic tradition of celebrating Three Kings Day every Jan 6 as a way to extend the buying season past Christmas and connect with Hispanic customers... El Día de los Reyes celebrates the day in Christian tradition when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus... Wal-Mart, which began promoting the tradition in a big way last year, is expanding. This year, the three kings are visiting Wal-Marts in the Southwest, and more than 300 Wal-Marts have displays and products geared to the celebration. And Kmart is sponsoring the Three Kings parade in Miami on Jan 13 and an appearance by José Feliciano at its Bronx, New York, store Thursday.

(h/t to Margaret Cabaniss of InsideCatholic.com)

That's right, the mother of all Big Box stores is taking the advice I've been promulgating for a couple of years now (click here). And hey, we're talking José Feliciano here. That's playin' the Palace, folks. Wal-Mart is prolonging that old Christmas spirit, even as this writer's timeless wisdom is ignored by the huddled Catholic masses in favor of belly-aching about the "culture wars," and flocking to somebody's next book-signing tour (and you know who you are, Mark).

I ask so little, I give so much.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my Christmas was almost as good as the one I spent in 2002 in Seattle. Sal was there at the house, and my son actually graced us with his presence for at least three hours, before continuing his merry-making rounds. What a prince! Then we went to her brother's house, and I fell asleep watching the big-@$$ screen TV downstairs. The perfect end to the perfect day.

Three days later, it was Childermas Day, and my birthday. My youngest sister came to Baltimore with her husband to visit his family, and they came down to DC that day. (That's her in the picture with some loser we met at the bar. Sorry, guys, she's taken.) Pat got to see my house for the first time, and now she can report to the rest of the family on the grand style of living to which I am now accustomed. Then we moved the party to where Paul tends bar. I must have been thirsty that evening, as I went through that strawberry daiquiri a little too fast. Well, that got me in the holiday spirit alright. Good thing I wasn't driving. Paul was mildly amused. He broke down and fixed me a Bloody Mary. Finally, a drink for grown-ups.

New Year's Eve was spent, in the words of an Elton John song, "at the club at the end of the street" -- in our case, Cecilia's, a popular Latin dance club in south Arlington. I may have been one of the few guys in black tie. But hey, it's New Year's Eve, dammit, and I'm getting out the glad rags for this main event. It gets respect from the bouncers too. Not that it doesn't happen anywhere else...

Finally, we had Second Vespers of the Epiphany at St John the Beloved in McLean tonight. It went very well, for a bunch of guys who had never done it before. Now, remember that US News cover above? Well, why settle for a magazine that anybody can get, when yours truly can grace the cover of a suburban newspaper for the High-Rent District? Not only that, but it's fifty percent larger than US News. That's more ME for your money. (I'm the guy on the left.)

The evening before, St John's had the blessing of "Epiphany water." For those unfamiliar with the custom, the old Rituale Romanum features a special blessing for holy water that a priest can use only for this Feast. It includes several prayers of exorcism, and the priest does not need a mandate from a bishop for performing exorcisms in order to use it. So, this evening, with the blessed chalk, and with Sal in attendance, I stood on a chair and inscribed the letters over the door.

2 0 + C + M + B + 0 8

The letters stand for the names of the Three Kings; Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthassar. They also stand, coincidentally, for the Latin blessing which I said out loud: "Christus Mansionem Benedicat" -- "May Christ this dwelling bless." On the way in the house, I accidentally hit Sal's knee with the leg of the chair as I was bringing it in. Oooh, that hurt! She was already having lower-back discomfort the whole day on top of my being a klutz. But she summoned the courage to press on, and we recited Psalm 109(110) together, while sprinkling the holy water in every room of the house, not to mention on her knee: "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool..."

After the concluding prayer, Sal discovered that the pain in her knee was completely gone, as was her back trouble.

You don't suppose...
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Friday, January 04, 2008



Jared Gordon returns with another 100 voices, for the first Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy for 2008. We just know how much you love this feature here at mwbh, especially since it was good enough for the folks at Creative Minority Report to steal for their "Friday Funnies." Let them try to deny it. HAH!!! We've been watching them...
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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Resolutions



All of us make them, and most of us break them. That said, here are mine, in the ever-popular "Top Ten" format.

10) Pick up the guitar and the banjo again and play like I used to before I entered the Art Institute.

9) Complete refresher courses in the summer on cascading style sheets and javascript.

8) Finish my studies at the Art Institute. (See 10 and 9, above.)

7) Finish getting my house in order, do a serious spring cleaning, and cut the rented storage in half.

6) Reduce my credit card debt, and refinance the mortgage.

5) Brush up on my Latin, and train at least a dozen guys to serve the Traditional Mass.

4) Brush up on my -- oh, who am I kidding here? -- learn Tagalog.

3) Earn the scout commissioner's "Arrowhead Award," and possibly the "Commissioner's Key." (These are essentially training awards. They like for us to look busy.)

2) Lose the thirty-five pounds I lost and gained back in the last five years.

And the number one resolution...

1) Get at least one step closer to heaven than this time last year.
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