Friday, January 30, 2009

Most of America, and half the rest of the world, will watch the Super Bowl this Sunday.

That goes ditto for people who never watch football. And most of the non-football-fans will watch it for the commercials. During the Cold War, they said that if the Russians wanted to invade us, they'd do it during this game. These days, the folks at Homeland Security have given this event their high-risk rating, and that's why you won't see blimps flying overhead anymore. Back on the ground, a 30-second ad costs $3 million dollars this year, so the folks who make Miller High Life (once known as "the champagne of bottled beer") decided to buy a one-second ad. That's right, a one-second ad.

For this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we feature the 30-second prelude to the Little Big Moment. In the second clip, we have a sampling of the moments that didn't make the cut, as well as a few outtakes. Come next week, we'll repeat a feature we did last year, and show you where you can see all or most of the commercials -- for those of you who can't even bear to sit through the game.

But I will, if only for the commercials. I'll also watch Bruce Springsteen during halftime, because I love his music, even though he embarrasses himself when he gets political. And I might even root for Pittsburgh. Not because they are favored with a 6.5 point spread, but because I've got a soft spot in my heart for that city, not to mention a few people I used to know there (and you gals know who you are).

Hello, muckety-mucks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You‘ve (Still) Got Mail

It was in the fall of 1969, when we were sitting at the dinner table, the six of us. The phone rang, and Dad went to answer it. It was a telegram informing us that Grandpa Alexander passed away.

I believe we got only two or three telegrams that way while I was growing up, but that was the last I remember. These days, Western Union is in the business of person-to-person money transfers and money orders, having finally closed down its telegraphing services in 2006. I was surprised to learn that such services are still available in North America, if by smaller carriers.

I thought of that day nearly forty years ago, when I read that the United States Postal Service may be cutting back to five-day-per-week delivery as a means of cutting costs.

Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week...

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. “If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year,” Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Many have suggested Saturday delivery to be dropped, as it is on the weekend, but it might just as easily be a typically slow weekday such as Tuesday. Maybe it's my imagination, but they may not be waiting in some areas. In Arlington, Virginia, I seem to have noticed an occasional Friday or Saturday in recent years, when there's nary a mail truck in sight. Most of us don't send cards or letters anymore. "Sal" and I sent out about a dozen or so cards this past Christmas between the two of us.

It might surprise some people to learn that the USA has what is probably the most efficient postal system in the world, second only to that of Great Britain. There has been private-sector competition for parcel delivery for several decades now. I wonder how that will change by the time my son is my age; say, in the next thirty years.

I remember when I first started using electronic mail. It began at my office. Then I realized I had to have a personal address if I was going to indulge in personal use. It had the immediacy of a telephone call, but the lingering effect of print. The combination made for misunderstanding on e-mail discussion lists, and brought about the need to establish "netiquette." Now we have all manner of internet-based messaging. We can use instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else comes down the pike.

The result may make life easier, but I wonder, what does quantity do to quality? Has making the world smaller brought us any closer together, or does it simply make our differences more obvious? Does the beeping sound coming from the PC telling us "you've got mail" carry the same thrill of that brightly colored envelope with the hint of its origin in the return address? When it is easier to send our words around the planet, do we choose them more carefully?

Time marches on. Things change around us. The older we get, the more overwhelming those changes are. That lesson hit close to home the other day, when I was telling my mother over the phone, about some work I was doing. It didn't matter how simply I explained, she didn't get it. How could she? There was no working computer in the house that once received telegrams. There probably never will be.

I wonder how well I'll handle progress when I'm seventy-four. Will I be waiting by the mailbox, for letters that no longer come?

South of the Bailout

I was watching a segment on the evening news the other night -- one of the "Big Three," don't ask me which one, 'cuz they're all starting to look alike by now -- which was devoted to the growing number of aging American "baby boomers" seeking more affordable retirement and assisted living facilities in... Mexico. There have already been a boatload of building starts for vacation condos along the Pacific Coast there, catering specifically to a lucrative American market. I was thinking about those trends while watching this segment from "Glenn Beck" on the Fox News Channel.

What are we to make of this? Would this trend give Mexico leverage for an eventual bailout from "El Norte"? Discuss.

Msgr William Smith

This past week witnessed the passing of a priest-theologian who was definitely "old school."

Monsignor William Smith, professor of moral theology at Saint Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, Yonkers, New York, for nearly forty years, died a week ago this Saturday at nearby St Joseph's Hospital. He was 69.

Smith was one of the leading Catholic voices in America on medical ethics, including matters of abortion, reproduction, euthanasia, stem-cell research and cloning.

Featured here is a lecture given for International Catholic University, concerning the moral teaching of Pope John Paul II, specifically his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth). An interview with John Mallon on critical issues in moral theology can be found by clicking here.

Taking What They’re Giving

Today there was a meeting I was supposed to attend, so I got out of bed for a change, buttoned up my overcoat, and made the short bus hop into Washington. Too bad the meeting is a teleconference call, since my voice is still more or less out of commission. But other than that, I don't know why I bothered. Perhaps it was the news that the Postal Service might have to cut back to a five-day delivery schedule (they already skip some Fridays or Saturdays in my neighborhood as it is) that made me feel guilty. Of course, because I'm on a compressed work schedule, I've got tomorrow off anyway.

Coming in today was the least I could do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wazzup With WTF?

Yo, dude. We got the total DL on the latest buzz with that whole pro-life thing. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air says wazzup:

Students for Life wanted to find a catchy title for their new campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act... one that would connect with college and high-school students. So SFL IM’d their BFFs, and OMG, came up with the WTF campaign...

The way they explain it, "Yes, it references a phrase that is offensive. However, unrestricted abortion is much, much more offensive. Using this phrase points to that fact." Hey, you were wondering what could possibly follow most so-called "pro-life Catholics" voting for a guy who said he'd sign off on totally legalized abortion, right? You can go to the website and check out the FAQ on the whole WTF.

So much for being desperately hip.

Winter Wonderland

The weather has been severe through much of the Nation's midsection, and the snow and ice has now reached the East Coast.

You know how when you get a nasal buildup and you just can't keep down supper and... well, it irritates your throat, but you don't know the effects until the next morning. I haven't been much for conversation since Sunday. For me, it tends to last about a week. Today is showing some improvement. I should be back to my old self by the end of the week. Until then, here's a video clip to help you make the situation seem more romantic than it really is. (Yes, I got my flu shot for this season.)

The weather outside is lovely, if you don't have to go out in it. As long as the power stays on, you'd think I could get a lot done. That would be great if I wasn't so tired all the time.

Meanwhile, Creative Minority Report has discovered this slide show of cloistered Dominican nuns, at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. The display at CMR is twice the size of this one. For those with computers that are not quite so fast, this size may be more practical -- if you can see the little buttons. Watch it here, watch it there, watch it anywhere, but know that if Time magazine thinks this is newsworthy, this may be a year of Hope after all.

Traditionalists lament the emptying of convents and seminaries in modern times, while progressives decry traditional religious life for being out of step with the times. Neither knows what they are talking about, and proof of that is emerging everywhere.

Including here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Pledge...

Politico reports that political cartoonists are finding it difficult to see anything funny in President Obama. Maybe they're afraid he will smite them with lightning bolts or something. That isn't stopping the kids at, who took this ridiculous public service announcement to the next level. It would never occur to Bono or the other bozos, that we didn't have to wait for this moment in history to take matters into our own hands. It will be interesting to see in six months or a year, if everybody still looks to their President to raise the dead or whatever. In the meantime, this obviously couldn't wait until Friday afternoon.

This writer has been under the weather lately, so things have been a little haphazard around here. But we're still in business, so stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Twenty-five years ago today, Apple Computer changed the face of personal computing -- and, for what it's worth, this writer's life -- forever. This was the day the "Macintosh" was unveiled to the public. I didn't get one back in 1984. It would have cost $2,495, and not much software was yet developed for it. But by the end of the decade, it gave the new concept of "desktop publishing" the user-friendliness of its graphical user interface. It was then that I had a pivotal role in implementing in-house electronic publishing services in my Government agency.

It's amazing what they take to the trash in some parts of Fairfax County, Virginia. Over the years, I've furnished apartments with stuff I could never afford to buy. Among them was an original 1984 Mac. Only the disk drives (internal and external) needed repair for a couple hundred dollars. Eventually, I got hold of an original ImageWriter printer. In time, I found an official modem (which was already unusable by the mid-90s), and even a scanner produced by a third-party developer. For the most part, I used it to write letters and play the occasional game (like that one where you have to protect the city from being inundated by missles) during the early- and mid-1990s.

Today, the computer and peripherals sit in a specially-designed carrying case, at my parents' home in Ohio. It includes a disk for a self-running slide show of various software supposedly available at the time. I have a watch with more computer memory than the 128 kilobytes of the original Macintosh, and it cost a lot less than $2,495. Maybe I'll have occasion to display this one-time wonder, however difficult to believe it is considered an "antique." (No, it is not for sale.)

It was fun while it lasted.

Friday, January 23, 2009

ahaha.gifObviously, this has been an eventful week for some of us. While I am at home trying to avoid coming down with a cold, we got the following item in our mwbh Mail Bag from one of our regulars, "D.W."

Young Chuck in Montana bought a horse from a farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the horse the next day.

The next day he drove up and said, "Sorry, son, but I have some bad news. The horse died."

Chuck replied, "Well, then just give me my money back."

The farmer said, "Can't do that. I went and spent it already."

Chuck said, "Ok, then, just bring me the dead horse."

The farmer asked, "What ya gonna do with him?"

Chuck said, "I'm going to raffle him off."

The farmer said, "You can't raffle off a dead horse!"

Chuck said, "Sure I can, watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead."

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, "What happened with that dead horse?"

Chuck said, "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998."

The farmer said, "Didn't anyone complain?"

Chuck said, "Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back."

Chuck grew up and works now for the government. He was the one who figured out how to "bail us out."

I'll tell you how troublesome this is. I've worked for the government long enough, that the above is actually starting to make sense. So much for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Morning at the Grotto

I did not attend the March for Life.

I served for the Traditional Low Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, in the Crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (otherwise known as "the National Shrine.") The occasion was for a group of pilgrims attending the March from Harrisburg, PA. Their chaplain took ill, so Father John Fritz of the Diocese of Rockford, IL, with whom I have worked before, was the celebrant. Joining me at the foot of the altar was a young seminarian, also from Harrisburg. The Lourdes Chapel is one of the first to have been built at the National Shrine, thus is ideally suited for the Traditional Mass, and is in fact where the Traditional Mass is normally celebrated these days. It has its own sacristy, vestments, and accoutrement, and it seats about fifty people. More than twice that many were in attendance.

It is always interesting to serve with guys from other parts of the country. I deferred the "first position" to the seminarian, not only due to his status (equivalent to tonsure, or entry into candidacy for Orders), but due to minor differences in custom and choreography -- when the bells are rung, which guy does what, whether to do the "second Confiteor" or confession of sin immediately before Communion, that sort of thing. My provisional colleague would know better what people in the pews would expect.

My Latin is still a bit rusty, especially the "Prayers at the Foot of the Altar" at the beginning of the Mass. I usually have a laminated card when I serve, and I planned on having a small one discreetly tucked up my sleeve. Unfortunately, I forgot about it by the time we got the ball rolling. I actually did better than I expected. (It didn't hurt that the other guy had it down pat.) Sooner or later, you gotta work without a net.

The whole place swarmed with young people there on pilgrimage from all parts of the country, all committed to the Gospel of Life, not to mention any excuse for a field trip. The order of Polish nuns that work in the sacristy are always a delight to work with, and they run a terrific operation.

I wish I had a picture of the occasion, but the one shown here is what the place looks like. Notice the "rood screen" that separates the sanctuary from the assembly. It was my first time serving Mass with one of those in place. It was closed for most of the Mass. We would open it for Communion, much like the gate of the altar rail at most traditional churches. We also celebrated the "Missa Votiva pro Remissionem Peccatorum" (Votive Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins), so the vestments were violet instead of white.

Oh, and I was much taller than that kid on the left.

(PHOTO: Father Daniel D'Alliessi of the Archdiocese of New York celebrates the Traditional Mass on November 17, 2007, in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. From the website of The New Liturgical Movement. Used without permission or shame.)

Where there is life...

...there is HOPE.

That's what they say. But if President Obama has his way, all restrictions on abortion will be removed, including those protecting babies born alive and left in utility closets or dumpsters to die. What's more, we get to pay for such deeds with our tax dollars. All this would come about if the Freedom of Choice Act is passed into law. Scott Richert doesn't consider this likely.

I do not think that Barack Obama will sign FOCA -- not because he will go back on his promise to supporters of abortion, but because he will not get the opportunity to do so... As far as I can tell, there aren't enough votes in Congress at the moment to pass FOCA, and, despite his pledge to sign it, I don't think Obama will squander his political capital early on by twisting arms on Capitol Hill on the most divisive issue in American politics... Obama is also a very cautious politician. Both as a state senator in Illinois and as U.S. senator, he has often avoided votes on controversial issues...

Oh??? I wasn't aware he was afraid to remove restrictions on killing babies born alive during his tenure with the Illinois legislature. Still, even with Pelosi and Reid in his corner, he may not have the support to allow abortion, to the extent that even a majority of the American people wouldn't allow. Meanwhile, the newly published agenda statement on the website does not mince words.

President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Adminstration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

Personally, crushing the skull of a newborn delivered by force, or leaving it to die on a hospital tray, is not my idea of showing "respect" for much of anybody. A man who touts the call for national "unity" may wish to consider the alternative, especially one close to home. Click on the video to find out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Calm After The Storm

"The party's over, it's time to call it a day..."

It's the morning after the Inauguration in the Nation's capital.

Life is returning to normal, sort of. People were encouraged to either telework or take the day off, as some entries into the District were still blocked as of just before sunrise. I had breakfast this morning with Rich Leonardi, author of the Cincinnati-based blog Ten Reasons, who is in town today with his son. He's my "go-to" guy for all the Catholic news back home. Today they will go on a whirlwind tour of the Smithsonian.

Tomorrow they will join hundreds of thousands in the March for Life, the largest annual public assembly in Washington. It is also the most ignored by the mainstream media. How they manage to overlook something of that scale is beyond me. Obviously it requires some concentration. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Breeds Eternal

Today, as Barrack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States, a scene came to mind from his campaign, where he said, "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Amidst what popular convention interprets as a promise of a greater role for the Federal government in our daily lives, we are challenged to imagine these words as if they were taken at face value.

If you venture outside the Beltway to Pittsburgh, heading west of that city on US 22, crossing into the northern panhandle of West Virginia into Ohio, you will reach an old industrial city known as Steubenville, site of a fortress outpost for the Northwest Territory in the post-colonial era. Traveling further west, you will soon cross into one of the poorest counties in Ohio. There you will pass a little town with a population of barely a thousand, one that would otherwise go unnoticed.

"Ruth" and "Daniel" own a small farmhouse just off a county road that ventures from the main highway. Daniel is what used to be called a "gentleman farmer," raising enough produce for his family, with enough left over to share with parishioners after Sunday Mass. They save water from the rain gutters in giant drums. They waste little else, and have few luxuries. In his younger days, Daniel would sneak into dumpsters behind supermarkets, to retrieve meat products that were expired but still safe. He would preserve his goods in a large freezer in the basement, next to the old wringer washer. His enterprise would support his own family, as well as numerous others in the township in more dire straits than their own. With the last of their three children setting out for themselves, Ruth took a job at a museum in the city. But for much of their lives together, Ruth and Daniel have lived technically below the poverty line, although you would not know it to visit a well-kept and happy home. They have also been without health insurance.

So how is it that Ruth is a three-time breast cancer survivor?

It is here that we return to the little town off the main highway. Everyone pulled together to raise the money for her treatments, with bake sales and spaghetti dinners at the town firehouse, and silent auctions with contributions from local businesses. Not only has Ruth benefited from this generosity, but a mother and daughter with identical brain tumors who had to be flown to California for treatment.

Those passing through, in asking around, will learn that this spirit of giving is common to these parts. You wonder how they do it when they have so little for themselves. It is often said that the poor are among the most generous. Maybe this is what Christ meant in the lesson about "the widow's mite." This lesson appears to have been taken to heart, in a county that is not waiting for a government bailout. (Like most of the rural parts of Ohio, this county went Republican in the last three elections. There might be a message in there somewhere.)

If we are indeed "the ones we've been waiting for," then we've been here all along. We would do well to witness this true meaning of hope for the hopeless, as we begin a new Presidential administration, one that reverberates with the themes of "hope" and "change." Perhaps it is more than coincidence, that the name of this little town off the main highway, known as the boyhood home of actor Clark Gable... is also known as Hopedale.

We pray Thee...

...O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

(In 1789, Pope Pius VI appointed John Carroll as Bishop of Baltimore, and first bishop of the United States. Carroll wrote the above prayer November 10, 1791, to be recited in parishes throughout his diocese.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Waiting For Camelot

Yesterday, Vice-President Elect Joseph Biden and his wife attended Sunday Mass, at the parish church once attended by the late John Kennedy when he lived there, and where he attended Mass the morning of his inauguration in 1961 as our 35th President. A friend called me on the phone and told me about it, but it was only later in the day that I read of it from the wires of the Associated Press.

Holy Trinity Parish was founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) since 1794, as the oldest Catholic house of worship in what is now the Nation's capital. The parish has been under their care ever since. It is located in the heart of Georgetown, just east of the University. Shortly after I came to DC in 1980, I joined Holy Trinity, and stayed there until 1987. When my marriage fell apart in 1990, I moved to Georgetown and returned to Holy Trinity, where I stayed until I left Georgetown in 1994. Two things first attracted me to the parish. One was that they had a young adults club. Where I came from, a Catholic parish would tend to forget about you, from when you left high school until you got married. The other attraction was the parish choir, where I had the privilege of learning more about Gregorian chant, and the great polyphonic motets of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. When I returned in the early 1990s, I had the privilege of being a paid sacristan for three years.

But sadly, Holy Trinity is known for other things. It is accused of being a hotbed of liturgical ballyhoo and heretical teaching. The first claim is somewhat exaggerated. If only at the 11:30 Mass, the style of worship is more formal than one might expect at many "conservative" parishes, if somewhat fast and loose with the details of rubrics. As to the other claim, the parish is noted for those on the path of Ignatian spirituality, and a tireless commitment to social justice work. These merits are somewhat overshadowed by an assortment of pseudo-intellectuals, who hide behind the Jesuit status quo, in an effort to escape the scrutiny of Church authority. The sort of shenanigans for which the parish has been famous, was the subject of a 1996 book by Jim Naughton entitled Catholics In Crisis: An American Parish Fights For Its Soul. As reported by Publishers Weekly: "Known for progressive lay leadership, Georgetown's Holy Trinity church saw a showdown when its peace-loving pastor could not reconcile several contentious factions in the parish... Beginning with one man's stand for women's ordination, conflicts soon erupted over... social justice, sex education, divorce, homosexuality and, especially, the conflict between democratic and hierarchical authority in the church."

Get enough people like that in one place long enough, and there's bound to be an inclination toward self-importance. It was people of this ilk who greeted Biden yesterday:

Biden and his wife, Jill, sat in a pew reserved for him and his family toward the back... as the Rev Larry Madden, SJ, delivered a sermon about God as a constant anchor and the promise of hope and change for those who believe... Toward the end of the 11:30 am Mass, as one of the lectors urged those in attendance to welcome new members and visitors [not exactly a regular occurrance] some in the congregation laughed and then applauded, looking toward Biden. He eventually stood and acknowledged the response that included a standing ovation.

Such an obsequious reception should surprise no one who knows Holy Trinity, a magnet for older East Coast political liberals, who cling to a vision of a church out of an Andrew Greeley novel, and whose vision of Catholicity includes a place like the "Camelot" of the Kennedy years. Their numbers may be dwindling as they grow older and contracept themselves out of existence, but they are a voice to be reckoned with along the Eastern seaboard. A couple of months ago, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President, decided to make her foray into politics. Not content to attain public office the old fashioned way, she used her and her Uncle Teddy's influence, to persuade the Governor of New York to appoint her to provisionally fill the seat left behind by Secretary of State-designee Hillary Clinton.

She might just get away with it too. The mainstream press has largely gushed over the possibility, although none of them could have topped Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post:

What really draws me to the notion of Caroline as senator, though, is the modern-fairy-tale quality of it all... The sheltered girl, whisked away from a still-grieving country by a mother trying to shield her from prying eyes... In this fairy tale, Caroline is our tragic national princess... I know it's an emotional -- dare I say "girly"? -- reaction. But what a fitting coda to this modern fairy tale to have the little princess grow up to be a senator. (12/09/2008)

Now, I ask you, who could argue with reasoning like that? Especially after listening to this Associated Press interview. Aside from an awkward attempt to demonstrate her awareness of the hardships of life beyond Manhattan's Upper East Side, she can't stop punctuating her sentences with "you know" like someone barely out of high school. Maureen Dowd (who once referred to President Clinton's lying about sex scandals in the White House as "endearing") wrote this for The New York Times:

People complain that the 51-year-old Harvard and Columbia Law School grad and author is not a glib, professional pol who knows how to artfully market herself, and is someone who hasn’t spent her life glad-handing, backstabbing and logrolling. I say, thank God... The press whines that she doesn’t have a pat answer about why she wants the job. I’ve interviewed a score of men running for president; not one had a good answer for why he wanted it. (01/06/2009)

No, but at least they had the wherewithal to RUN for the job. That's more than you can say for someone who calls the Governor of New York and basically says she wants it handed to her on a platter, not unlike a much younger Caroline telling Mummy and Daddy, "I want a pony." Fortunately, not every liberal pundit is falling for it. Richard Bradley of Slate recalls the obvious: "Just as she's never shown any enthusiasm for public office, so Kennedy has never shown much interest in the things candidates have to do to get elected."

Someone once attributed this to a latent American wistfulness for the presence of royalty. But royalty comes with responsibility, or at least it used to. There have been distinguished families in America, associated over the years with public service -- Dulles, Lodge, Taft, and Roosevelt, to name a few. Say what you will about their stated positions or their contributions, but at least they took their place the old-fashioned way, by earning it. By all means, if Caroline wants the job, let her descend from her New York penthouse, long enough to make her case to the people of the Empire State, without Uncle Teddy making a pitch to Albany for the key to the back door.

If this administration, and the party coming into power with it, want to bore us to death about "unity," they can start by refusing to pander to the sense of classism and elitism, that is the staple of the fox-fur-wearing, apple-martini-sipping, putting-on-the-Ritz crowd that clings to their precious East Coast vantage point. That goes ditto for the ass-kissing bourgeois Catholics who congregated in Georgetown this past Sunday, to turn their backs on God to worship a mere mortal.

(THIS JUST IN 01/21/2008: It was reported that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from consideration for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, citing "personal reasons." It took nearly two months, but somebody probably convinced her she'd look like an idiot. Sometimes an Ivy League education can really pay off.)


You can watch the entire love fest today on HBO, conveniently situated at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The stars are out in full force, doing what anyone else would do in their situation. But hey, you can watch it on TV and not have to stand out in the cold or stand in line for an hour to use a portable toilet. Oh, and did we mention that Lincoln was a Republican?

Meanwhile, someone in the mainstream media took a moment to dwell on the obvious:

“It seems odd to have a VIP section for a concert about unity.”

This too shall pass.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ricardo Montalban was a subject of conversation yesterday, in particular his starring role in the ABC television drama Fantasy Island, the original version running from 1978 to 1984. (In the short-lived revival for the 1998-99 season, the starring role was played by Malcolm McDowell.) Montalban played "Mister Rourke," the owner and proprietor of an island amusement park somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. It was here that, for a considerable price, guests came to live out their fantasies. It was through the living out of these fantasies, that Roarke was able to help the guest learn an important lesson about themselves. The series was Montalban's greatest role in television, and the character of Rourke was perfectly suited to the man.

Of course, many people remember Montalban's role as Khan Noonian Singh in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where he rerpises a role as a nemesis of Captain James Kirk (William Shantner) from the original television series. Our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy is presented earlier than usual this week, with a remembrance by Doug Savage of a great actor, and a man of great faith. (Click on image to enlarge.)

May he rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ricardo Montalban, 1920-2009

"[It is] my tenacity and faith that has seen me through my many years in entertainment..."

In this scene from the 1947 Oscar-nominated movie Fiesta, a young Montalban dances with Cyd Charisse. A man who once referred to his Catholic faith as "the most important thing" in his life, Montalban died yesterday morning at his home in Los Angeles, from what a family member described as "complications from advancing age." He was 88.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

“Laura, we have a virgin on line 1...”

I do not believe anybody in the Catholic blogosphere has posted this yet, in which case you get to hear it here first. Many of you have heard of the young woman who is auctioning off her virginity on eBay. It seems she has to pay for getting her masters degree in (brace yourself!) Marriage and Family Therapy. Out of over ten thousand bids, the highest is supposed to be around $3.7 million. Yes, you've heard about the auction. But have you heard... the interview???

It is apparent from her conversation with syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, that 22-year-old "Natalie Dylan" has not thought this through very clearly. ("I’m not doing this to have sex, I’m doing this for the money.") The transsexual prostitute who calls into the show makes for an added bonus. This writer will let the sad commentary on the present human condition speak for itself (or in this case, HERself). One thing remains clear, though. You really can find anything -- and in this case, we do mean anything! -- on eBay.

Getting (the H#$%) out of Dodge City

Starting tomorrow, I'm on vacation until after the Inauguration. Things in this town could only get crazier anyway. It's just as well that I won't be attending any official events.

I'm pleased to see that, among the honored guests, will be those who, as young schoolchildren, had to be escorted to public schools and universities as the first people of color to enter them. Some people just have a right to feel vindicated. On the other hand, I'm not sure the local chapter of the Boy Scouts was formally invited this time around, to serve as official parade escorts, as they have been every other time for the last umpteen Inuagurations. After all, the President of the United States is the de facto Honorary President of the BSA, and if there's one youth organization that is tanned, rested, and ready to roll up the sleeves and do some mucho public service, it's these guys.

Not that we don't have anything else to report for the next six days. In fact, our Editorial Department here at mwbh has a few items on the back burner, headed to the front. We'll continue to keep you informed -- or at least, easily distracted.

Resolutions Reconsidered

All of us make them, and most of us break them. Unless you're like those two jokers Rhett and Link, who keep the bar low enough to come out ahead. Nice work, guys.

Of course, they don't have Sal to worry about. Last year, I drew up a "Top Ten" list of resolutions. She took on the self-appointed duty recently, of giving me a hard time over whatever resolutions I made that I probably didn't keep anyway. Well, as we say back in Ohio, "them's fightin' words!" Below is the list from last year's post at this time entitled "Resolutions," with an assessment of how I did under each one, in blue italics.

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

Didn't really happen, but I bought Paul a bass guitar for Christmas of '07, and he eventually got his own advanced model. Plus he moved to a new place with two musicians, who keep their axes and equipment in the living room, ready for action. At least I'm passing the legacy to the next generation. As to THIS generation, see 9 and 8, below.

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

I managed to pay for tutoring in CSS, and licked that problem successfully. Javascript instructors were harder to find, however. Now I need one to brush up on PHP and MySQL. Any ideas, people?

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

Between a lack of funds and a lack of availability of required classes (not to mention remedial work necessary to keep up with state-of-the-art developments), it's gonna be THIS year. Really.

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

See 10, 9, and 8, above. Someone told me that I really don't have to keep credit card or utility bill statements going back more than a year. We'll be revving up the shredder for an all-day session real soon.

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

This actually happened, sort of. Mortgage companies will avoid sitting back while someone forecloses, if they can help it. And in my case, they're helping. So I'm helping myself. This is happening.

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

This happened too, although not quite a dozen. We discovered that guys of middle and high school age have better things to do on a Friday night than serve Mass. Who knew?

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

I was taught a few handy phrases, which Sal and I use around the house when we're arguing. My attempts at the language are the source of constant amusement among her "kababayans" (strictly speaking, people from the same hometown or province; in popular use, fellow countrymen).

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.)

I managed to look busy last year without the awards, by trying to save two Scout units from going under. Why they tanked in spite of everything is the subject of another post.

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

I lost the five or ten pounds I gained this past year. Could have been worse.

And the number one resolution...

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

The jury is still out on this one. But as John and John (They Might Be Giants) are quick to remind us with their usual theological astuteness, I'm running out of time.

(Notice anything different about the New York City skyline?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Everyone wants to be... Mark Shea

...but beware, there are imposters, cheap imitations of the real thing:

Why must this man continue to suffer the scourge of mediocrity from his malevolent detractors? Readers must beware of these posers, and accept only the genuine article. Raised "more or less as an agnostic pagan," Shea became a non-denominational Evangelical in 1979, and entered the Catholic Church in 1987.

The Bailout Game

Congratulations! You have been assigned the task of saving the US -- and by extension the global -- economy. Make your way along the game board without getting caught by the recession... or worse.

Ride along with your drivers, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke, as they drive a dump truck of cash down Wall Street and bail out the banks in need of help, but be careful; some banks only want to spend taxpayer dollars!

"Chance" takes the form of Current Events, Federal Reserve and Treasury cards. Game play will change based on the decisions you make.

If you get stuck and need advice, just click "Ask a Greenspan" and Alan Greenspan, with his mad financial skills, will help to guide you.

The country and the world are depending on you. Good luck! You're going to need it!

(The above is the introductory text for the featured game, to be accessed by clicking on the image. As with virtually all interactive media clips here at mwbh, Adobe Flash Player is required. H/T to Allahpundit of Hot Air for having nothing better to do than stumble onto toys like this.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Plowing Through Monday

Today is the first Monday following the traditional date for the Epiphany. In the British Isles, this would have been the end of Yuletide celebrations, and the start of the agricultural season. Thus it became known as "Plough Monday."

Closer to home, most people have taken down their Christmas decorations. I have too, but I haven't put them away yet. I admit I put off things sometimes, especially when I get to concentrating on a project to the exclusion of all else. This is an anticlimactic time of year for some, but here in Washington, the big Obamapalooza event on the 20th has everyone stirred up. This is probably the most media-hyped Presidential inauguration since that of John Kennedy in 1961, perhaps the most media-hyped in history.

Of course, the crowd estimates have been sliding down ever since they were reported. First they said to expect between 4 and 6 million visitors to DC, then it was 3 to 4 million. Last I heard, it was 2 to 2.5 million. Then there's all those people with empty houses they were hoping to rent out for the occasion, that are going to sit empty on that day. Even so, there are people going to great lengths to be able to attend the offiicial events. But perhaps the saddest part is all the cheap imitation "official" tee-shirts being sold by vendors. They feature the image of Obama, or Obama with the wife and kids, or Obama with Martin Luther King (who was said to vote Republican) and John Kennedy.

Personally, I'd rather be "molly dancing."

In lieu of that, I'm looking for an excuse to get out of town for a day or two. Maybe head up to Philly for a dance, or to western Pennsylvania for a hike in the mountains. The annual March for Life is on the 22nd, and there are tentative plans for a get-together for local and visiting Catholic bloggers and their readers. There is also the possibility of a special guest. You'll hear about it here first. Stay tuned...

(IMAGE: "Plough Monday," from George Walker's The Costumes of Yorkshire, 1814. Used without permission or shame.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) announced late last year, its intention to cut back on prime-time network programming, due in large part to the economic downturn, but also a reflection of viewing trends away from the "Big Three" of network television toward cable-based network and other "narrowcast" programming. At about the same time, there was word that Jay Leno, host of The Tonight Show, might be moving to a similar type of program, from his current 11:30pm time, to the 10:00pm slot. This would follow the trend of his older audience towards an earlier bedtime. While this writer is no great fan of conventional network television (and prefers the more specialized programming offered with high-end cable), NBC deserves some credit for some great shows over the years. In the two clips featured here for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we are showing favorite scenes from two of them.

The Cosby Show (1984-92) was a sitcom starring comedian Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad, as the parents of an upper-middle-class Afro-American family living in Brooklyn. It was one of the most critically acclaimed situation comedies ever, and put NBC back on the map with the sitcom genre. In the first clip featured above, the Huxtable Family does an anniversary tribute for their grandparents, by dramatizing Ray Charles' 1958 hit recording of "Night Time is the Right Time," originally recorded by Roosevelt "The Honeydripper" Sykes in 1937. The West Wing (1999-2006) was a serial drama depicting the fictional presidency of Democrat Josiah Bartlet, admirably played by Martin Sheen. Considered an outstanding work by critics and political science professors alike, it was often dubbed "the Clinton White House without Clinton." Consultants to the show included former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, as well as former White House speechwriter Peggy Noonan. In our second clip, from the show's second season, White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) meets his match on a political talk show, in the form of conservative political consultant Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

NOW it’s official!

Contrary to what some idiot on a talk show (or Al Gore) may tell you, the people of the United States do not elect their President; they choose electors for their State, and the several States use the electors to choose our President. This system was designed by the Founding Fathers, to ensure that the smaller States would have parity with the larger ones. In this clip, a joint session of the legislative branch, presided over by the President of the Senate, alongside the Speaker of the House of Representatives, confirms the results of the electoral vote, thus making the decision official.

Complain about it if you want, but in two and a quarter centuries, we've never had a coup.

God bless America. HOO-rah!

Father Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

"We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well. Most of us are at ease in discussing what makes for a good life, but we typically become tongue-tied and nervous when the discussion turns to a good death. As children of a culture radically, even religiously, devoted to youth and health, many find it incomprehensible, indeed offensive, that the word 'good' should in any way be associated with death. Death, it is thought, is an unmitigated evil, the very antithesis of all that is good....

"From the twelfth-century Enchiridion Leonis comes the nighttime prayer of children of all ages: 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.' Every going to sleep is a little death, a rehearsal for the real thing."

Requiescat in pace.

(Quotation excerpted from Neuhaus' book As I Lay Dying: Meditations Upon Returning. H/T to New Liturgical Movement and National Catholic Reporter.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Ann Coulter Moment

I was thinking of Ann Coulter today.

It couldn't be helped. She was on NBC's Today Show early this morning, being interviewed by an empty suit named Matt Lauer, about yet another book featuring her in a black dress on the cover, this one entitled "Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America." Lauer was pummeling her for the "tone" of a statement he read from her book, which didn't really have a "tone" at all, but was merely a factual statement. True, some of her comments are outrageous, and occasionally way out of line. That by itself doesn't make her wrong about the issues, but it does make it easy for guys like Lauer to steer the conversation away from...

"Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" was a 1972 hit by the British rock band "The Hollies." It's about an FBI agent who falls for a nightclub singer at a speakeasy which he was scoping in advance of a raid. Despite a lack of promotion by their label Polydor, to which they had just signed after leaving EMI/Parlophone, the song made Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number 1 on Cash Box, making it their biggest hit in the USA. But what's totally cool about it, is the opening guitar riff by lead guitarist/lead vocalist Allan Clarke. Let's roll that clip of the band, featuring Clarke and his sunburst Fender Telecaster.

[flashblack]I remember back in the day at a CYO dance, when a local garage band called "Roach" played this one. John Walsh was the singer/guitarist, and the Otten brothers backed him up. Those guys sure were a lot of fun. Then after getting into drugs and stuff and being obnoxious, they all found Jesus and became even more obnoxious. Last I heard, they had started one of those "emerging churches" outside of town -- you know, the kind for people who hate going to church. Gee, I still miss those guys...[/flashback]

"Long Cool Woman" is a song worth doing by any cover band out there, just for the guitar part alone. (If you can find a guy who can sing higher than E over Middle C, more power to you.) That's why I can't get it out of my head, and don't really care to. So I'm going to let Neil Hogan at show you kids out there in Guitar Town the RIGHT way to play this number, as opposed to all the cheap imitators.

Party on.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Plug This: The Raving Theist

Our "Plug This" series is usually devoted to lesser-known figures in the Catholic blogosphere, but the subject of this installment won't have that problem for long. At least not right now.

When a prodigal son or daughter returns to the fold, or a non-believer is converted, it is said that the Angels and Saints in Heaven rejoice. By the same token, if you start a blog telling everybody you were a bunny-rabbit-sacrificing devil worshipper for umpteen years before seeing the Truth of the Catholic Faith (or something along those lines), you can get some serious mileage out of that episode. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- unless your cover is blown, of course.

In 2005, [enter name here] was featured in a documentary entitled The God Who Wasn't There. Then, in September of 2007, a blog entitled The Raving Atheist stopped posting. It became active again last month, and after a few entries which seemed to be dancing around the author's impending transformation, he came right out with it: "TODAY I DEDICATE THIS SITE AND MY LIFE TO THE WORSHIP AND SERVICE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST."

He hasn't stopped explaining himself since.

Okay, it's only been two weeks. I'll admit there is cause for rejoicing. In fact, let's dedicate a song to this guy. Now, let's see, I left my old edition of "The Southern Harmony" lying around here somewhere, if I could only... ah, here it is. Okay, everybody ready??? A-one and a-two and a-three and a...

When converts first begin to sing,
   Wonder, wonder, wonder.
Their happy souls are on the wing,
   Glory, Hallelujah!
Their theme is all-redeeming love,
   Glory, Hallelujah!
Fain would they be with Christ above,
    Sing glory, hallelujah!

They wonder why old saints don't sing,
   Wonder, wonder, wonder.
And make God's earthly temples ring,
   Glory, hallelujah!
They view themselves upon the shore,
   Glory, hallelujah!
And think the battle all is o'er,
   Sing glory, hallelujah!

The Bible now appears so plain,
   Wonder, wonder, wonder.
They wonder they should read in vain,
   Glory, hallelujah!
The air is all perfumed with love,
   Glory, hallelujah!
And earth appears like heaven above.
   Sing glory, hallelujah!

I just hope he doesn't blow it, because that would be sad.


* "The Young Convert," from The Southern Harmony, as sung at the Harrod's Creek Shape Note Convention, Brownsboro KY, April 2008.

Twelfth Night, The Morning After

(I didn't actually write this, so this is like a guest columnist, okay? Just don't know who the author is... -- DLA)

The Ingram Tom Moore Thespians performing Twelfth Night, their entry in the 2008 UIL One-Act Play Competition. After a great run they finished as Regional Finalists, taking the State Alternate slot. Kylie Nidever was named Best Actress at Regionals along with Chris Bakka of Wimberley as Best Actor. Over the course of competition, at four levels, Ingram took Best Actor or Best Actress at every event. Previous winners this year included Madelyn Beaudoin, Kaleb Dworsky and Lindsey Morris. This performance was filmed early in the season at Warrior Theatre, 16 March 2008.

The show was directed by Holly Riedel, assisted by Marie Cearley and Dan Schmidt. The fantastic crew included Jordan Spradling on lights, Zack Morris on sound, Benton del Toro as stage manager, and Jason Gardner as assistant stage manager. Macy Wilson and Brendan Flowers were understudies.

The cast included Shana Baldwin, Taylor Danielson, Katrina Greenshield, Tanya Gardner, Laura Kulbicki, Caleb Weaver, Tara Frels, Lindsey Morris, Logan Stehling, Tino Rodriguez, Kylie Nidever, Madelyn Beaudoin, Kaleb Dworsky, and Kaleb Hargrove.

filmed by tony gallucci, milk river film, Holly Riedel - Executive Producer

Monday, January 05, 2009

Coming Here, This Year, Have No Fear...

There will be some minor enhancements to man with black hat this year.

The basic template is expected to remain the same. Additional code enhancements, however, will provide for a collapsible archives ("My Back Pages"), so you won't have to scroll to Kingdom Come to find that special month. There will also be a new illustrated masthead on top. Display of video clips will continue, although YouTube's new entries now have a widescreen format, and we're allowing for that. In addition, there will be additional bells and whistles as time goes on, as soon as our Research and Development people can determine how the Adoring Public can best be served.

The "Usual Suspect" entitled "Portfolio" is already being rebuilt, since I have a new web server for my non-blogging use. Go to to see my interactive media creations.

Occasional features on the usual "church chat" issues will continue, so people can still get the impression that this is a Catholic blog, while also leading one to conclude that the author has a reasonably balanced life. We will also continue to have regular features. These will include "Plug This," introducing the best kept secrets of the Catholic blogosphere, and other special series as well. And of course, the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy will prevail, as always.

Speaking of "no fear," let's all enjoy some flying human squirrel jumping. HOO-rah.

Christmas: Day 12 (St Telesphorus)

"On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming..."

Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmastide. No, it's not Epiphany, which had its own octave before the calendar reforms of 1955, and has its own "tide" running for several weeks. On the other hand, the celebration known as "Twelfth Night" is not on the night of Epiphany, but the night before. You know, the vigil. Now then...

Today on the traditional Roman calendar, we remember St Telesphorus, a Pope and martyr of the second century who doesn't sound like a Catholic household name. Then again, tradition has given him credit for the Christmas Midnight Mass, the Sunday celebration of Easter, the Lenten season as we more or less know it today, and the singing of the Gloria at Mass. (Historians tend to doubt all this, by the way, but that's the word that got around.) There is also the town of Saint-Télesphore in southwestern Quebec, which is named for him.

Not too shabby.

The Year in Forty Seconds

We don't always know what the year holds for us, but videographer Eirik Solheim shows us what we know already, in the changing of the seasons. Watch the whole year go by in forty seconds. Music is provided by John Romano. To view in high-definition, or to find out more about how he creates these scenes, visit his website at Old Blue Eyes said it best: "Life is like the seasons; first the winter, then the spring. So I'll say a little prayer, and see what tomorrow brings."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christmas: Day 11

"On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping..."

Today, the traditional Roman calendar observes the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, while the contemporary calendar observes either the Second Sunday After Christmas or (because the bishops in their infinite wisdom realize how lazy the lot of you are for celebrating anything on a weekday) the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Today, we here at mwbh are taking the opportunity to commemorate a special saint who would normally be honored on this date, namely Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be raised to the altar, and the foundress of the Sisters of Charity. This order of sisters is observing their bicentennial this year, to honor their continuous service to the church and the world, through the teaching and health care apostolates. Please note the illustration of St Elizabeth, which includes the "bonnet" that was typical of the early habits (also being the typical "widow's dress" of the time), and remained so into the mid-20th century for their congregation in New York and the Bronx. Not so much the Sisters of Charity of Mount St Joseph, who were the predominant order in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and who taught millions of Catholic schoolchildren, including this one.

My eight years in captivity in a parish school witnessed the transformation, from full-length habits with rosaries attached to their belts, to skirts that one young sister had to keep tugging when she sat down. That one eventually left the order, but continued to teach in the parish school. Oh, the stories I could tell...

To find out more about their history and legacy, and in the hope that they may yet forsake their Earth-Mother-Goddess-Spirit-Rising schitck in time, visit their special website at

That, and hope for the best.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Christmas: Day 10

"On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping..."

It's Saturday night at the movies for Chez Alexandre. We're going to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Based upon the 1921 short story by F Scott Fitzgerald that was first published in Colliers Magazine, a man's age is played out in reverse. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born old and slowly grows younger as time goes by. The film has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including for "Best Picture." Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has already seen it, and has given it a thoughtful review.

Save us the aisle seats.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Christmas: Day 9 (Holy Name of Jesus)

"On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing..."

The traditional Roman calendar associated this day with the Holy Name of Jesus -- that is, if the Sunday falls on January 1, 6, or 7. (It makes sense if you think about it long enough. Good luck with that.) The relationship with bestowing the name on the Child with the event of the Circumcision is such, that the traditional Gospel reading for both is the same. In addition, some Western traditions, such as Anglican and Lutheran, celebrate both on the first of January. This year, the traditional ordo places the feast on this coming Sunday, but we've got other plans for that day, so ...

Once I heard a comedian pose this important theological question: "If Jesus was Jewish, why did He have an Hispanic name?" The peculiar occasion aside, it gives us occasion to consider, that the name "Jesus" was not an uncommon one in His day. Brian Palmer writes for Slate:

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters -- including a descendant of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2)...

How would Christ have been addressed by those around him? Well, certainly not as "Mr Christ." In fact, "Christ" was not a name, but a title, from the Greek Khristós or "anointed one." The Hebrew word was Moshiach or "Messiah." He would have been known by his given name, and the name of His father -- Yeshua Bar Yehosef or "Jesus Son of Joseph." In later centuries (or in present-day Iceland), He might have been addressed as "Jesus Josephson," but that's just a hunch. We know that He eventually left Nazareth of Galilee, the town of His childhood, for other parts of that country, as well as Samaria and Judea. In those places, He would have been just as likely addressed as Yeshua Nasraya or "Jesus of Nazareth." After all, a guy from a hick town like that would have been rather conspicuous in a high-falutin place like Jerusalem, especially outside of the High Holydays.

The Scriptures also record him being addressed as "Jesus Son of David." A man would also have been known for his extended family; that is, his tribe or house, as in Yeshua ben David or "Jesus of the House of David." Or so I've read. But even though family lineage was everything in Jewish society, such an address was not as common in everyday use.

Or so I've read.

(NOTE: The above illustration is the seal of the National Association of the Holy Name Society. HNS chapters have been the basis for men's clubs in Catholic parishes for generations.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Christmas: Day 8 (Octave Day)

"On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking..."

The world knows today as New Year's Day. Mother Church knows it by many names.

First and foremost, it is the "Octave-day," the eighth day of Christmastide. Such was its name in the earliest liturgical books. As such, it would be remembered as the day of Circumcision, when a son of Israel was marked according to the Law. (To be honest, it hurts just thinking about it.) In both the classical and reformed Roman Missals, the brief account from Luke is proclaimed:

At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (2:21)

In the reformed Missal, the day is known as the "Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God." While appearing as a break in tradition, it is a reminder of the Marian emphasis of the Feast, evident in the prayers of the day for both older and newer forms of the Missal. It was the tradition in Rome, that the Pope would go to one of the many churches in the city, whichever was the "Station" for that particular feast -- in the case of this one, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

But wait, there is so much more...

In the East, today is known not only for the Circumcision, but as the Feast of Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, and one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church. Today is when the Greeks would traditionally exchange gifts. For many years, when I couldn't meet with Paul for Christmas, I would make an occasion of this day. Since he was resting at home after a long night's work, I continued the tradition this year. Any excuse to finally see the new place.

With all that arcane information, you have to admit that's a lot of names for just one day. And to think the year is just getting started.