Friday, September 26, 2008

I was watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan just the other day. Then I found this deleted scene. At least now I know what all the yelling was about. And so it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. Meanwhile, my bags have yet to be packed, and I hear that highway callin’...
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Yes We (Apparently) Can

One aspect of this year's presidential election that is commented upon, but which rarely warrants sufficient analysis, is the matter of style over substance. If it were to turn out that Senator John McCain were to lose the election to Senator Barack Obama, it might be less over their respective qualifications, or even their stands on the issues, than it would be over matters of appearance, a victory of style over substance -- in other words, who does a better selling job.

The differences in how their campaigns are run are a statement in its own right. McCain reflects a passing generation, one which quite frankly has paid little attention to the young voter, the 18 to 25 age group. This could prove his undoing, as that age group has not been this interested in the political process in years. A generation attracted to instantaneous visual imagery is easily attracted to a slick and well-crafted message, one that gains value with repetition. To compound this attraction, Obama makes full use of the electronic media, including tying in supporters through the use of "members only" text messaging.

To the casual and uninformed viewer (and one cannot lay enough stress on this caveat), McCain represents an old and tired face, the same old face, the same old same old. Obama is a fresh face. People like a fresh face. The mainstream news media, which has manipulated this election campaign to an extent unknown in our history, particularly on television, is composed of those whose main qualification is having a fresh face. In Obama, they see one of their own, less for where he is coming from, than for how he got there.

Europeans are watching this presidential election with great interest. In a recent piece in the UK's Guardian, columnist Will Brady discusses Obama's brand strategy, and how it is "rapidly achieving cultural ubiquity."

Obama is, of course, an unprecedented figure in American politics for a number of reasons. Not least, because he is the first presidential candidate to have been promoted in the same way as a trans-media, upmarket consumer brand. The people behind Obama's corporate identity have crafted a meticulous visual strategy that has been seamlessly deployed across an enormous diversity of platforms - from lapel pins to social networking websites, billboards to podcasts, where Obama's publicity has maintained an unrivalled aesthetic cohesion. It's a feat any creative director would be proud of.

There are stories of supporters at rallies having their lovingly handmade "Yes we CAN" signs exchanged by campaign staffers for officially branded materials. Evidently, Obama's marketing team believes that visual consistency matters. They're not wrong. Greater consistency means greater collective impact. That's how brands function - by establishing themselves as culturally ubiquitous, a normal and inevitable part of everyday life. That's how Obama wants to appear - and what his branding is doing for him. The colour scheme is a well-balanced if predictable red white and blue, the logo an innocuously abstract roundel (the sun rising over a ploughed field? or are those just stripes?).

But what really brings everything together is the typography...

Ah, yes, the typography. That the interest of yours truly should be piqued should come as no surprise, having been a professional graphic designer for over thirty years. It was a relief to finally learn the name of the typeface employed by the campaign: Gotham. At first I thought it was the same typeface used in signage and other government material in the 2006 movie V For Vendetta. It looks very similar, but it's not the same. Were it identical, there would have been a message there somewhere.

But the message remains. This election, as with all of them, is about ideas, about substance. It is not about being swept up in a phenomenon for the rush that it brings. It is not about what your friends might think of you if you are not as excited about a unique form of marketing as they are. Those who are simply mesmerized by the aura, the imagery, of a large-scale initiative, should beware lest they throw caution to the wind. This is not the first time in our history that cosmetic forms of persuasion brought a civilization to its knees.

(TOP PHOTO: "Presenting a united font... Supporters of Barack Obama hold up matching banners at a campaign rally." Mel Evans/Associated Press. BOTTOM PHOTO: Group of soldiers walking with Nazi flags, Nuremberg Rally, Nuremberg, Germany, September 1933. © SuperStock, Inc. All images used without permission or shame.)
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Going Home

You'd think I'd have something to say about this Wall Street nonsense, wouldn't you? Well, to be honest, I do. But it has to wait until tomorrow. I'm wrapping up things at the office so I can head down the road to Ohio come Saturday morning.

Ten years ago, I would have gone home two or three times a year, sometimes four. That was when I didn't have a life here. This was back in the days when working in this office was a form of Dante's vision of Office Hell -- if he ever had one. I'd go the whole day avoiding all the little $#!†s with whom I was forced to work, and the mean arrogant son of a b@#$% FOR whom I was forced to work, then go home and have no one to talk to there either. So going to Ohio was like a one-week break from The Twilight Zone. In recent years, however, working here has actually gotten bearable. I also have something here in DC I never thought I'd have, namely a life.

It took me over twenty years for this to feel like home. But it's still not like Ohio. It never will be. I long for the chance to be politically incorrect without having to look over my shoulder. I hope to visit the farm where my Mom was born, and where I spent many a Sunday afternoon, playing with my legion of cousins in the barn and in the fields, waiting to be called for the big picnic dinner in the yard. Even on a Sunday evening, I could see Grandpa or Uncle Bernard coming down the slope from the cow barn with a bucket of fresh milk. The work would never end.

Naturally, I'm hoping to see some old friends. I also wish I could go salsa or swing dancing, but "Sal" can't come this time, and dancing isn't the same. Especially when you're in a strange place and you don't know who to ask. It doesn't help that I haven't been out on the floor in awhile either.

Fortunately, Paul will be with me. It will be the first time in five years he's seen his grandparents. They haven't seen him either. Last time he was almost eighteen. Now he's almost twenty-three. That's like... forever, practically.

We'll keep blogging on the events of the times too. Just from a different vantage point. Stay tuned...

(PHOTOS: Cincinnati skyline by Jayson at pbase.com. Main Street, Milford, Ohio, circa 1965 by Bill Stockland. Used without permission or shame.)
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

40 Days For Life

Beginning today, in more than 170 cities in the USA and Canada, the largest and longest coordinated pro-life campaign in history will be launched. Known as "40 Days For Life," it consists of three parts; prayer and fasting to end abortion, peaceful vigils (some of them round-the-clock) outside local abortuaries, and "grassroots educational outreach" to the public at large. Their website is 40daysforlife.com, where you can learn more about this initiative.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jerry Reed

Several weeks ago, the world lost a legendary country-fied city slicker picker who could pick a lot of slicker licks than me. Jerry Reed Hubbard, better known simply as Jerry Reed, passed away in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 31, due to complications from emphysema. He was 71.

Jerry could best be described as a guitarist's guitarist, a singer-songwriter who did well enough to get noticed by the right people. He was also the quintessential genuine country boy, the kind that the Nashville establishment is occasionally unashamed to claim for its own -- as opposed to the buff boy-toy male models they've been trotting out lately.

He got his first record deal right out of high school, and had a string of minor hits in the early 60s. Then came 1967, with his first significant hit, "Guitar Man." Elvis Presley was the guy who made something of it, but he wanted to make it sound like the original. "I was out on the Cumberland River fishing, and I got a call from Felton Jarvis (then Presley's producer). He said, 'Elvis is down here. We've been trying to cut 'Guitar Man' all day long. He wants it to sound like it sounded on your album.' I finally told him, 'Well, if you want it to sound like that, you're going have to get me in there to play guitar, because these guys (you're using in the studio) are straight pickers. I pick with my fingers and tune that guitar up all weird kind of ways.'" ("'Bandit' star Reed dies at 71", Tennessean (2008-09-02)).

Elvis was completely blown away. "I hit that intro, and [Elvis's] face lit up and here we went. Then after he got through that, he cut [my] "U.S. Male" at the same session. I was toppin' cotton, son." They recorded some of Reed's other tunes in that same session. Before long, Jerry Reed was a chart-maker in his own right, beginning with "Amos Moses" in 1970.

Reed also made a few movies, the most famous of them being all three "Smokey and the Bandit" films, the first premiering in 1977. He also appeared with Burt Reynolds in "W W and the Dixie Dancekings." But in the end, Jerry Reed was a guitar man who would rather be gone fishing when he wasn't picking guitar. His unique style is given tribute in the accompanying video clip, "Jerry's Breakdown" composed by Reed, and played by Antoine Dufour and Tommy Gauthier on a single guitar.

Pretty neat trick, actually.
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The Haircut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut.

After the cut he asks about his bill and the barber replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’

The florist is pleased and leaves the shop.

When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’

The cop is happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’

The professor is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen different books, such as ‘How to Improve Your Business’ and ‘Becoming More Successful.’

Then, a Congressman comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’

The Congressman is very happy and leaves the shop.

The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Congress.

Vote carefully this year....

(The author being unknown, the above has been making its way to inboxes throughout cyberspace, with good reason. -- DLA)
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Eric Brende

...is the author of the best-selling book Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, in which he considers the state of modern technology and how to use it, or perhaps avoid it as much as possible. His reflections on the effects of technology on the family, the community, and the larger society, have gained the attention of no less than NPR and The New York Times. A couple of years ago, he was interviewed by Godspy.

Brende was a student at Pearson College of Kansas University, where he was first tutored by the great revivalist of classical liberal arts, Professor John Senior. He went on to study at the very nexus of technological achievement, MIT. Obviously this Brende fellow is not your ordinary Luddite.

I first heard of Brende when he was writing in the mid-1990s for the now-defunct Caelum et Terra magazine, under the editorship of Daniel Nichols. At that time, Brende went to live among the Amish in eastern Kentucky, in the hopes of establishing a Catholic "Plain" settlement there. It didn't work out that way. Most recently, he has been living in St Louis, making his living as a soap-maker and (!!!) rickshaw driver.

Having heard much of the pro and con about technology, the evils of television, and (until certain Catholic agrarian types discovered blogging) the dangers of personal computing, I would generally dismiss most of it out of hand. Whether it's cell phones, computers and the internet, or even television itself, today's technology is like a much earlier form of technology, namely fire. It is a good servant, but a bad master.

Eric Brende, on the other hand, cannot be ignored, and won't be tomorrow night, when he appears tomorrow evening from six to seven, at the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University. To be more precise (as the University has grown to be a pretty big place), Brende will be at the Provident Bank Tent, outside the Johnson Center, at GMU.

More information on the festival can be found at fallforthebook.org.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

“I was just your average hockey mom...” It wasn't the first time a public figure alluded to humble origins. There isn't a senator or congressman from way down in Dixie, who doesn't spend every day practicing his southern drawl and “aw shucks“ demeanor in front of a mirror, so he can never lose either one after thirty years of using the Watergate as his main address. I could always use something like “My grandpa was born in a log cabin, and now his grandson works within spittin' distance of the White House.” Yeah, that would be cool. It would also be true. Anyway, I stole this video clip from Mark Shea when he was too busy signing copies of his latest book “Eat, Drink, And See Mary: The Inside Story of Medjugorje” to notice. It's sure to be a big hit. Here's hoping we can say the same for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FLASH: Rosary Is “Gang Symbol”

The upcoming month of October is traditionally associated with devotion to the Holy Rosary, but this story couldn't wait that long.

About a month ago, I got into a discussion as to whether wearing a rosary around one's neck was a proper use of this devotion. I said that it was not, while a well-read adversary pointed to quotations from a saint commending the practice. (This doesn't always make it appropriate, by the way.) Meanwhile, a student at a Dallas school is learning about it the hard way:

Tabitha Ruiz was stopped by security guards at Seagoville High School in Dallas last week and told to take off the silver and ruby beaded rosary, a gift from her mother. On Monday, the same thing happened when she again came to the school wearing the beads.

"I went to school, walked through the metal detectors and they told me to take it off," the teen said. "I asked them why and they said because it's gang-related."
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"Lately they’ve been seen wearing religious jewelry such as the rosary worn by gang members, so it is a factor," Sr Cpl Kevin Janse of the Dallas Police Department told the FOX affiliate.

Representatives of both The Jets and The Sharks could not be reached for comment. (PHOTO: Scene from Broadway musical West Side Story, courtesy Museum of the City of New York. Used without permission or shame.)
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Supply Reconsidered

The fourth part of a bi-weekly series, on issues associated with restoring the Traditional Latin Mass, is now published at The Gregorian Rite. It is entitled Advocatus Diaboli: Supply Reconsidered. This segment elaborates on the training and development of priests able to celebrate the Traditional Mass, as well as the challenges of providing a suitable venue.

The fifth and final segment of this series will be published in exactly two weeks.

(UPDATE: I will be out of town during the last week in September and the beginning of October, which will cut into my research on the article. There may be a delay of an additional week. Stay tuned...)
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A First at MWBH: Larry King

Meghan McCain gives The King the low-down on Sarah Palin: "First of all, she's really chill. She's really nice, really friendly. She's really up on pop culture, which I always respect." She goes on to mention that the Barracuda is not one to feel "entitled" -- we'll see how long that lasts once she's in the Big Chair -- but that she is also very shrewd.

Oh, well, at least Ms McCain an improvement over the Bush twins.
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The ‘Nati (Doesn’t) Like Ike

Hurricane Ike made its way up the midsection of the USA this past weekend. Much to this writer's amazement, it maintained much of its force by the time it reached the Ohio Valley, even as far north as Chicago, which gets enough wind without any help. As this is written, most of the Cincinnati area is without power since Saturday. Duke Energy, the area's main utility, hopes to have power restored to 85 percent of its customers in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, by tomorrow.

Other reports are less optimistic. Our folks living on the eastern outskirts may not get relief until this Saturday. From this vantage point, it is as bad as I can ever remember. Cincy has been known to recover from tornadoes a lot more easily, like that last bad one back in August of 1969.

Here at mwbh, our prayers go out to the people of the "Queen City of the West." Hang tight, everybody. I'll be there in less than two weeks.

[THIS JUST IN: The power came back on in Milford around 3 this afternoon. Mom is celebrating by doing laundry. What else can she do? There's no booze left in the house.]
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Monday, September 15, 2008

“Does she, or doesn't she?”

“Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” (Anybody old enough to remember that commercial?)
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?



“She thought it was quite funny, especially because the governor has dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween.” -- from The New York Times, on what Governor Sarah Palin thought of being portrayed on NBC's Saturday Night Live by comedienne Tina Fey. (Content advisory.)
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Exaltations

Today, the Christian Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This year, it is also the first anniversary in the Western church, when the papal decree Summorum Pontificum became effective, permitting the unrestricted use of the classical Roman Missal, as first compiled by Pope Saint Gregory the Great in the sixty century, as codified by Pope Saint Pius V in 1570, and last revised by Pope Blessed John XXIII in 1962. It takes its place alongside the reformed Roman Missal, made available under the authority of Pope Paul VI in 1970.

At St John the Beloved in McLean, we commemorated the occasion with the celebration of a Solemn High Mass.

In the second century, the pagan emperors of Rome clearly saw Christianity as a threat to the status quo, and proceeded to eradicate the holy places where Christ suffered, died, and rose again. The Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138) ordered the ground of Calvary and the Tomb to be covered, and shrines to honor Jupiter and Venus to be erected in their place. Three centuries passed, during much of which time sacrifices to the false gods were offered at the site of the One Sacrifice. Eventually, if only by the grace of God, the sacred remains of Christendom were discovered, and in a new era of tolerance, were open to Christian veneration again. The emperor Constantine, under whose rule this was possible, sent his mother Saint Helen to Jerusalem. She ordered the pagan temples destroyed, and oversaw the excavation of the ground beneath. There she found the three crosses upon which Our Lord and two thieves were executed. The one upon which Christ was hung was determined when a dead man was laid on each one, only to come to life on what could only have been the True Cross. With this discovery, the Patriarch Macarius of Jerusalem led those who held the Cross aloft for all true believers to see. It is this show of victory that is depicted on the icon which honors this occasion.

There have been other victories associated with this venerable relic, but they are too numerous to mention here. Indeed, for many Catholics who would defend their great heritage, their sacred tradition, only one victory preoccupies them today. The discovery of a treasure long suppressed and now liberated is remembered today.

In his sermon honoring the occasion, Saint Andrew of Crete declared: "The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast."

"In hoc signo vinces." With this sign, thou shalt conquer.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

This is a rotoscoped animation by Ben Arthur, using unscripted footage from a hike in the woods with his 6 year old brother Julian. It was done by hand drawing every frame, using a wacom tablet, even the titles. He invites others to visit his illustration website at: http://vocaleyes.com/benarthur. Authur also wrote a tutorial for Rotoscoping on a budget. You can see it by clicking here. And so it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

There Are Angels Hoverin’ ‘Round...


A family member spends a quiet moment at the Pentagon Memorial, which opens to the public tonight. Victims' relatives played a major role in its completion. (Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The memorial at the Pentagon is being dedicated today. It's less than two miles east of where I live. I could get on a #16 bus and be right there, but I'd really rather not. I hate going to these things alone.

I was at my office, two blocks west of the White House, on September 11, 2001. My friend on the phone was calling from Jersey, and told me to turn on CNN. Then she told me to get the hell out of town.

From the north balcony, we could see White House staff milling around, having run from their offices moments before. Then some of us saw something to the south, and ran to the other balcony to get a better look. The Pentagon was on fire.

It wasn't so much panic, as pandemonium that ensued after that. No one knew what to do. Our press office was waiting for orders to release us while supervisors were doing it on their own all over the place. Meanwhile, the story goes that the Secretary of Transportation asked the FCC if they could account for every plane over American air space. As usual, they couldn't. So the Secretary, without waiting for the President and being officially way out of line, ordered the FCC to call every jetliner, every crop duster, out of the sky immediately. Good call.

My apartment was a three-mile walk across the Potomac. I certainly didn't expect Metro to have any more of a handle on the situation than anybody else, so I walked across the Jefferson Bridge along with hundreds of other people. Made it home in an hour or so. Then I called Mom in Ohio, and told her to tell the others I was okay. Later that day, the phone lines on the East Coast weren't working, and the streets of DC, Maryland, and Virginia were all off limits.

My ex-sister-in-law worked in the side of the Pentagon that was hit. She was at a doctor's appointment that day. Many of her associates weren't so lucky. I was told later she ended up taking retirement shortly thereafter. For some reason, it hit me pretty hard too, and I ended up on medical leave for a few weeks.

The guy who hired me to come to Washington was in World War II, an expatriated Austrian Jew who escaped to England and joined the British Commandos. He told me some guys were completely messed up as a result of the experience, but that he fared better; in fact, it strengthened his character. These things affect people differently, I imagine.

At 9:37 this morning, my agency will have a Moment of Silence in the main lobby of his headquarters building where I work. I'm off today though, so I'll have my own moment of silence. Probably while finishing a cup of coffee.

I'll have more to write later today, I suppose...

UPDATE: LATER THAT EVENING... I got back from St John's tonight. We're having a Solemn High Mass this Sunday, for the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. So the priest, deacon, and subdeacon for the Mass (three priests, actually) had to do a run-through with their master of ceremonies (which would be yours truly). We followed a DVD viewed with my hand-held player, which is the only way at this point that I could possibly look like I know what I'm doing. The vestments for that day are supposed to be red, and we have this beautiful Medieval set based on the vestments worn by Thomas Becket of Canterbury. We spare no expense ad majorem Dei Gloriam.

I only wish someone had a camera for the occasion (sigh!).
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is it the End of the World yet?

At a CERN particle collider facility in Switzerland, two particles were... well, collided, to simulate what might have happened when the Big Bang created the universe. Some people thought the universe would take exception to such duplication within its domain, and that all of existence would be obliterated. Fortunately, that didn't happen, or you wouldn't be reading this right now.

The actual Creator Himself was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman referred us to His earlier prepared statements in the Book of Genesis.
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Mary’s Birthday

Today the Church honors this day as the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There can be no better occasion than to examine the following recent, if long overdue, development:

LONDON (CNS) -- The Vatican has authorized "severe cautionary and disciplinary measures" against a priest who served as spiritual director to the visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has written to Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, whose diocese covers Medjugorje, to inform him that they are investigating the case of Franciscan Father Tomislav Vlasic.

The congregation has asked the bishop, for the good of the faithful, to inform the community of the canonical status of the Bosnian priest, whose actions automatically provoked Vatican sanctions....

Years ago, I asked the eminent Mariologist, the late Dominican Father Frederick Jelly, what he thought of Medjugorje. He said, "I wish people got as excited over the Eucharist."

I cannot imagine that promoters of Medjugorje, indeed the whole Mariapolooza bandwagon around the world, will listen to the local bishop (usually the final arbiter in these situations), even after this latest development. They haven't listened to him up to now, nor did they listen to his predecessor. Instead, they have spent the last umpteen years saying, that without an explicit condemnation of the phenomenon, they had a Get Out Of Jail Free card to promote the bejeezus out of the apparition at Medjugorje. To maintain such a position at all, is to completely misunderstand where the burden lies. Am I to lend credence to every little old lady who has an apple fall on her head and starts hearing voices? I would be if I listened to these bozos.

Then again, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about private revelations:

65 "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."26 Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty. (St John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel 2,22,3-5 in The Collected Works of St John of the Cross, tr K Kavanaugh, OCD, and O Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC:Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979)

66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ."28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
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73 God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant for ever. The Son is his Father's definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him.

Now, boys and girls, this is what we grownups like to call "the old bottom line." Investigation of just a handful of appearances -- as was the case at Fatima -- can take years. The gang at Medjugorje has racked up over thirty thousand. And every single one of them has to be checked for moral or doctrinal error, among other things.

Of course, promoters of the "appearances" will dredge out assorted off-hand quotes from this Pope or that Cardinal, which suggest that a private opinion, or off-the-cuff observation, carries the same weight as an official pronouncement. These are the same pious pinheads who can't explain this:

In 1985 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the doctrinal congregation and now Pope Benedict XVI, banned official, diocesan or parish-sponsored pilgrimages to the shrine. However, individual Catholics are still free to visit and have a priest with them.

That "however" part is the loophole, you see. No one is stopping me from visiting on my own, so let's start up a Medjugoogoo Monthly Magazine and arrange for tours-that-none-dare-call-pilgrimages, complete with a priest with enough time on his hands, who will put on a good face for us.

Meanwhile, the original visionaries are doing quite well, thank you very much...

[T]he seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims – and so has their town, which has boomed as a result of the ‘Madonna gold rush’.

Some today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court.

They also own expensive cars and have married – one of them, Ivan Dragicevic, to an American former beauty queen.

Why does the behavior of the visionaries matter? Well, when the Church examines phenomena such as this, it has always mattered. They judge the tree by its fruits. The promoters of Medjugorge are quick to call for that, citing the wealth of pious enthusiasm that surrounds the phenomenon. They tend to play down the other wealth. The result, when you add it all up, is more fruits than you can shake a stick at. How much more obvious can it be?

St John of the Cross said that every such report from a "visionary" should be presumed to be of diabolical origin, until proven otherwise. (Hey, isn't that him in the footnotes of the Catechism? You don't suppose...?) But the most that the Church will ever say about such visions, even Fatima, is that there is no reason to believe that the phenomenon is not of supernatural origin -- which is hedging quite a bit, actually -- and that it is worthy of veneration, and is to be exempt from public criticism from the faithful. Even then, the phenomenon does not require the belief of the faithful (that is, with the virtue of Faith).

If you really want to read something worthwhile on the subject, I do not recommend anything that remotely promotes Medjugorje, even if it is authored by a priest. I definitely recommend A Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations by Father Benedict Groeschel, published by Ignatius Press. One publisher of a Marian magazine has labeled this book "dangerous to the Marian movement."

Which is another way of saying "bad for business." That's good enough for me.
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Friday, September 05, 2008

P Diddy has less difficulty doing his hip-hop schtick on the fly, than he does forming complete sentences when pontificating on politics. I don't believe spinning around in circles makes it any easier for him. He may have a point about there being no African-Americans in Alaska, or he may not. Our research department here at mwbh couldn't find any information. (In other words, Wikipedia didn't have them listed with "Alaska" under "Population.") Still, you have to worry about guys like this, and wonder how they make a decent living. Maybe P T Barnum was right after all. As for P Diddy, he don't know Jack, much less Sarah Palin. An so it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. (CONTENT WARNING: I'm not sure, but he mumbles something about halfway through that sounds like... oh, it doesn't matter, cuz you'll get tired of it by then. Or dizzy.)
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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Today was a slow news day. Trust me.

Life in the Self-Proclaimed Center of the Universe must be down to a crawl, as the Boston Herald looks beyond Beantown for the Burning Issues of Our Time:

Yes, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has a lot on her plate: a pregnant teen daughter, a son on his way to Iraq, an infant with Down syndrome and a looming national election.

But must her hair suffer? With her long, straight, often pinned-up locks, Palin looks one humid day away from fronting a Kiss cover band.

“It’s about 20 years out of date,” said Boston stylist Mario Russo of the Alaska governor’s ’do. “Which goes to show how off she might be on current events.”

So... does this mean they'll stop picking on her kids?
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Gone Fishin’

Sometimes I get phone calls from call centers in the upper Midwest region, specifically Minnesota and Wisconsin. I always look forward to these, even when it's a reminder of my credit card bill. (It can happen!) Eventually we strike up a conversation about how things are out there. That conversation usually involves the weather. Of course, the weather, as well as how the fish are biting, are the most popular topics among the folks up there. And I tell them how much I appreciate their calling to remind me that my credit card bill is due, and how happy I'd be to handle it on the phone. They seem to like that.

I never went for fishing all that much, even though I had a lot of pals who did. It requires patience, and I don't have any. I try to compensate for it by procrastinating, but that doesn't always work. Maybe that's why I get those phone calls. Now what was I saying? Oh yeah...

We have two clips today. Our first one, from the Associated Press, is about a two-story tree house in Wisconsin, which I would have built years ago in my folks' back yard, if Mom hadn't had the last big tree cut down for some damn fool reason she never explained. Something about how they were taking down the other one when they expanded the house, so as long as the help was there...

I don't know why I bother trying to reason with her. Going home later this month should be interesting.

Anyway, the other clip from the Fox News Channel, is about the people of Minnesota and how nice they are. Really, they're the nicest people you ever wanna meet, if you don't count Garrison Keillor. (They say it's because he's shy. No, I think moving that show to New York City made him a little too big for his britches. But, I digress...) And while they demonstrate the Minnesotan accent -- actually prevalent throughout the Great Lakes region -- they don't explain its origins, which is mostly the Scandinavian immigrants of the mid- to late-19th century. Ya, sure. You betcha.

It's getting time for lunch. Where can I find a decent corn dog in this town?
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Supply Side

The third part of a bi-weekly series, on issues associated with restoring the Traditional Latin Mass, is now published at The Gregorian Rite. It is entitled Advocatus Diaboli: The Supply Side. This segment focuses on the challenges of supplying both sufficient priests, and a suitable occasion, for regular celebration of the Traditional Mass.

This includes assertions which are likely to raise the ire of those, who are impatient with the slow rate of the motu proprio's implementation. Nevertheless, these assertions are worthy of their attention, if only to understand the magnitude of such developments.
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Small Towns and Big Expectations

The story of my life, is a story of growing up in and around small towns in the Nation's midsection. It is a story of a long line of small town folks from that midsection. No, Alaska is not in the midsection. But it has a lot in common with it, if you don't count moose burgers and polar bears.

My mother's side of the family wasn't much on "shotgun weddings." But my dad's side was no stranger to "robbing the cradle." I remember many years ago, going upstate to see Grandma Alexander. It was shortly after the move to DC, must have been in '81 or '82. There she was walking into the house, the cutest little blond gal, about sixteen years old, carrying Grandma's latest great-great-granddaughter. Oh, she was married alright. But at sixteen? I thought this only happened in places like eastern Kentucky or in West Virginia.

I found out later that this was not the exception in that part of the family. I only remember being at the house of "Uncle Jimbob" once. He was "off the wagon" much of the time, and Dad couldn't stand having us around the guy. It probably didn't help his case that time when Dad and Grandma went to visit his wife, my "Aunt Minnie," and Jimmy Boy showed up with his girlfriend. Oh, yeah, old Jimbob wasn't exactly the easiest guy to live with. Especially when he demanded your whole paycheck if you lived under his roof. Hey, the guy just had to have a new Cadillac every other year. You think those things grow on trees? Well, whether they do or not, it was enough to make the girls in that family want to move out sooner rather than later. Naturally, they probably married guys who reminded them of their daddy. And so, the legacy continued.

There are all kinds of reasons girls marry early in this day and age. Maybe they fall for the bad boy on the football team, and things get a little out of hand. I can still remember back in the day, when a guy would tell me how they were planning to "do the honorable thing." When your horizons don't extend much farther than the county line, and you graduate from high school with a full-time job at the local tire and auto repair shop, making what seems like good money, but with no prospects for much else, and one thing generally leads to another, that can only mean...

There's a lot of chatter on the blogs about the seventeen-year-old daughter of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (the presumptive Republican nominee for Vice President, if you've been at the beach for the last two weeks), not only about the daughter being pregnant, but of her plans to marry the father. Some of these smarty uptown folks didn't have a problem when there was serious trailer trash in the White House under Clinton. But hey, let's all show America what "hope" and "change" means by picking on a little girl, and telling her how she should run her life. And let's blame the parents for being too busy to catch everything that ever happens in their kids' lives, like every other set of parents in America.

Oh yeah, we've got our finger on the pulse alright. Or maybe we've got our finger somewhere else. Ya think???

Meanwhile, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air writes: "We have walked in the Palins' shoes." Somebody in the political blogs knows what he's talking about. For once.

This family from Wasilla, Alaska (2005 estimated population 8,471), may be the most normal to ever be involved in a run for high office. Ever work in a capital city of a largely rural state? You learn to shed your delusions of grandeur pretty fast. That guy you just tangled with in the state house over funding for a road project, is the same guy whose kid sister you took to the senior prom ten years ago, after which her daddy kicked your ass for bringing her home too late. Closer to this home, half the gals growing up on my block either liked hunting and fishing, or playing basketball. Sarah could have just as easily been one of them. Her husband, the so-called "First Dude" of Alaska, runs his own commercial fishing business. You think he'll leave it to someone else for a chance to live in a gilded cage like the Naval Observatory for four years? I wouldn't bet the farm on it. The guy would be bored stiff. Obama can distance himself from this rhetoric all he wants. But he can't control the media that has spent the last year fawning all over him. Thankfully, it won't stop guys like Bill Bennett from giving CNN's Wolf Blitzer the ass-whooping he richly deserves.

And speaking of "hope" and "change," next time Chris Matthews has any particular feelings going up his leg, I'm hoping to change the channel. I'd rather hear about how the Palins are doing. Hell, I'd almost leave the civil service just to work for her.

Not sure what I'd do, though. Can't remember when I last handled an M-16.

[THIS JUST IN: In the above clip, Fox News' Kelly takes on Trotta on Palin balancing family and career. Meow.]
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Another Day at the Inbox

[We all get trivia clogging our inboxes. Some items are more trivial than others. This was one of the more illuminating examples, found this Labor Day on the Scouts-L listserv. -- DLA]

It's a holiday, so I thought I might just list a few things for consideration.

There - a place away
Their - possessive; it belongs to them
They're - contraction; 'they are'
Its - possessive form of 'it' (his, hers its - no apostrophe)
It's - contraction; 'it is' or ' it has'
Your - possessive form of 'you' (It belong to you)
You're - contraction; 'you are'
Yore - long ago, as in 'days of yore'
An - singular article, used before a vowel (an accident) or silent consonant (an historical event)
And - conjuntion; connects two items (peace and joy)
Pros - pural for (opposite of cons [against]; pros and cons)
Pros - plural of pro (short form of 'professional') [no apostrophe]
Pro's - possessive; belongs to the pro
Prose - written word; not poetry ;-)
Where - a place unspecified or unknown
Wear - to have on clothing
Were - 3rd person plural past tense of 'to be' (They were....)
We're - contraction; 'we are'
Know - to be mentally aware of something ('I know the rules.')
No - negative interjection ('No, I don't have it.')
Want - to desire
Wont - enjoy, take pleasure in (usually pronounced the same as 'want').
Won't - contraction of 'will not.'
Lose - ('looz') to part with, to cease to have
Loose - ('looss') freedom from restraint, untied or unbound
Do - perform, execute, bring about
Due - directly ('due north'); attributed, ascribable ('due to....')
Affect - (v) to influence ['affect the outcome']
Effect - (n) appearance ['a special effect']; (v) to accomplish ['effect a change in the rules.']
Cloth - (n) pliable material, usually knitted, woven, or felted ['clawth']
Clothe - (v) act of putting on clothing, to dress [clOthe]
Advice - (n) recommendation [ad-vice]
Advise - (v) to give advice, to counsel [ad-vize]
Lie - (n) an untruth; (v1) to tell an untruth; (v2) to recline, to rest [past tense: lay, have lain; e.g. "When did you lie down?' 'I lay down yesterday for a quiet nap.']
Lay - (v) to put, to place [past tense: laid, have laid; e.g. 'Where did you lay the book?' 'I laid it on the table.']
Preventative - poor spelling; see 'Preventive'
Preventive - concerned with prevention, precautionary
Plural form - usually add 's' (not 'apostrophe s') [same for abbreviations, e.g., 'PL' and 'PLs']; if word ends in 'ch,' 'x,' 's,' or 's-like' sounds add 'es'; if word ends in 'y,' drop the 'y' and add 'ies'; for plural names or hyphenated words, pluralize the primary word, e.g., court of honor becomes courts of honor, mother-in-law becomes mothers-in-law.

Questions? I highly recommend http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
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