Monday, June 29, 2009

Peter and Paul

Here at mwbh, we have honored today's Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in various ways. Our personal favorite was in 2006.

Some other pairings of the saints’ names came to mind recently, as we shall explain.

"The expression 'rob Peter to pay Paul' goes back at least to John Wycliffe's 'Select English Works,' written in about 1380. Equally old in French, the saying may derive from a 12th-century Latin expression referring to the Apostles: 'As it were that one would crucify Paul in order to redeem Peter.' The words usually mean to take money for one thing and use it for another, especially in paying off debts," according to the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997) ".In 1546, it was included in John Heywood's collection of proverbs: 'To rob Peter to pay Paul.' George Herbert listed it in his collection (1640) as 'Give not Saint Peter so much, to leave Saint Paul nothing.' First attested in the United States in 'Thomas Hutchinson Papers' (1657). The proverb has its counterparts in other languages...

A later explanation attributes the saying to the 19th century, when the estates of St Peter's Church, in Westminster, London, were used to pay for the repairs of St Paul's Cathedral.

There may be a precedent.

It is a slow day in the East Texas town of Madisonville.

It is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich tourist from the East is driving through town. He enters the only hotel in the sleepy town and lays a hundred dollar bill on the desk stating he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

As soon as the man walks up the stairs, the hotel proprietor takes the hundred dollar bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to pay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer then takes the $100 and heads off to pay his debt to the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmer's Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute, who has also been facing hard times and has lately had to offer her "services" on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel and pays off her debt with the $100 to the hotel proprietor, paying for the rooms that she had rented when she brought clients to that establishment.

The hotel proprietor then lays the $100 bill back on the counter so the Rich traveler will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveler from the East walks back down the stairs, after inspecting the rooms. He picks up the $100 bill and states that the rooms are not satisfactory. He then pockets the money and walks out the door and leaves town.

No one earned anything. However the whole town is now out of debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government is conducting business today.


Maybe the appearance of effectiveness is what makes this solution so attractive, don't you think?

Or don't you?
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Today, the House of Representatives had a moment of silence, to honor the death of Michael Jackson. I‘m not even sure they did this for Elvis. I suppose that‘s what bothers me the most about it. And on that note, this week‘s edition of the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy takes a look at how these geniuses might deal with a national health care system.

By the way, we here at mwbh would love to hear from both our British and Canadian readers, about the respective programs they have in place. What does your experience tell us about what we in the States could expect from a similar plan? We have heard good things about one of them. The other, well, not so good.

Well?
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Remember, O man, thy death...

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online writes:

Generally speaking, I’m a believer in the rule that we should not speak ill of the dead. Or at least we should wait a decent interval before doing so (if we never spoke ill of the dead, history would be meaningless). But, I must say I find the media’s instinctive rush to sanctify Michael Jackson disgusting.

So do I. May God have mercy on him anyway.

But wait, it gets worse. Much worse.

In the moments following Michael Jackson's death -- so many people rushed to the Internet, that it practically stopped the entire WWW in its tracks... The last time the 'net had this kind of traffic -- Obama's inauguration.

And now, back to our regular programming of The View, already in progress.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Voice of Neda

Much has already been written about Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year-old Iranian philosophy student in Tehran, who was shot to death last Saturday during rioting in the streets, in protest of national election results. The brief low-res cell phone video of her final moments has been seen on the internet all over the world.

Much has also been written about the response of the current Presidential administration, or the lack thereof, depending upon whom you ask. It has been said that our government has been playing Iran and Iraq against one another for over half a century. It has also been argued that America's vital interests in the region, which includes its stability as a means of international accord, demand a response.

Well, maybe so. But before we get caught up in the pouncing of pundits...

Consider what a former Speaker of the House, the late Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, once said: “All politics is local.” This sentiment has also been rendered another way: “Think globally. Act locally.” Some have already responded, by providing cyber-based conduits for the angry, honest citizens of Iran, to get their message out, past government censors and threats of retribution. (The family of this young girl has been barred from mourning her publicly according to Islamic law and custom. This from a nation that claims to govern under strict Islamic law.) If we are indeed a beacon of freedom in the world, we can make it possible for lovers of freedom to chart their own course, in helping them to help themselves.

I've asked Paul Alexander to provide information on how we can help.

so here's some info on how your more tech-savvy readers can make an impact on the situation in iran: set up a proxy server on their computer for iranian internet users who are being censored.

http://blog.austinheap.com/2009/06/15/how-to-setup-a-proxy-for-iran-citizens-for-windows/

[Please refer to the home page to stay current with further developments. -- DLA]

users should take a look at the comments section because of some issues with connectivity, but this is a good start. i was able to set it up on my computer with the help of a friend. in a situation where even 24 hour news outlets have basically become glorified twitter feeds with colorful commentary, this is a way that americans can make a positive impact by helping to get the word out.

*p


Neda is a Persian name that translates variously as "the voice" or "the divine calling." As followers of Christ, we are taught that a thing must die in order for another thing to live. If the passing of this innocent girl can be the seed from which justice may flourish, then that peace which is not of this world -- that which comes only from the God of Issac and Ishmael -- might one day reign down upon the land, from which the wisdom of Esther once delivered the people of Israel.
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One Minute Theatre: Hiatus

This week’s edition is going to have to wait until next week, which is another way of saying that we don’t have anything for this week, since this is not like most weeks. Stay tuned...
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Taking Credit (Where It Isn’t Due)

[This one was sent to me by my my aunt out west. Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially by the unscrupulous. With credit being doled out more sparingly by banks these days -- ironically, Christmas bonuses have prevailed as well as ever -- here are three cautionary tales for us all.]

SCENE 1:

A friend went to the local gym and placed his belongings in the locker. After the workout and a shower, he came out, saw the locker open, and thought to himself, “Funny, I thought I locked the locker... Hmmm.”

He dressed and just flipped the wallet to make sure all was in order.

Everything looked okay - all cards were in place.

A few weeks later his credit card bill came - a whooping bill of $14,000!

He called the credit card company and started yelling at them, saying that he did not make the transactions.

Customer care personnel verified that there was no Mistake in the system and asked if his card had been stolen.

'No,' he said, but then took out his wallet, pulled out the credit card, and yep - you guessed it - a switch had been made.

An expired similar credit card from the same bank was in the wallet.

The thief broke into his locker at the gym and switched cards.

Verdict: The credit card issuer said since he did not report the card missing earlier, he would have to pay the amount owed to them.

How much did he have to pay for items he did not buy?

$9,000! Why were there no calls made to verify the amount swiped?

Verdict:

Small amounts rarely trigger a 'warning bell' with some credit card companies.

It just so happens that all the small amounts added up to big one!

SCENE 2:

A man at a local restaurant paid for his meal with his credit card.

The bill for the meal came, he signed it, and the waitress folded the receipt and passed the credit card along.

Usually, he would just take it and place it in his wallet or pocket. Funny enough, though, he actually took a look at the card and, lo and behold, it was the expired card of another person.

He called the waitress and she looked perplexed.

She took it back, apologized, and hurried back to the counter under the watchful eye of the man.

All the waitress did while walking to the counter was wave the wrong expired card to the counter cashier, and the counter cashier immediately looked down and took out the real card.

No exchange of words --- nothing! She took it and came back to the man with an apology.

Verdict:

Make sure the credit cards in your wallet are yours.

Check the name on the card every time you sign for something and/or the card is taken away for even a short period of time.

Many people just take back the credit card without even looking at it, 'assuming' that it has to be theirs.

FOR YOUR OWN SAKE, DEVELOP THE HABIT OF CHECKING YOUR CREDIT CARD EACH TIME IT IS RETURNED TO YOU AFTER A TRANSACTION!

SCENE 3:

Yesterday I went into a pizza restaurant to pick up an order that I had called in.

I paid by using my Visa Check Card which, of course, is linked directly to my checking account.

The young man behind the counter took my card, swiped it, then laid it on the counter as he waited for the approval, which is pretty standard procedure.

While he waited, he picked up his cell phone and started dialing.

I noticed the phone because it is the same model I have, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then I heard a click that sounded like my phone sounds when I take a picture.

He then gave me back my card but kept the phone in his hand as if he was still pressing buttons.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking: I wonder what he is taking a picture of, oblivious to what was really going on.

It then dawned on me: the only thing there was my credit card, so now I'm paying close attention to what he is doing.

He set his phone on the counter, leaving it open.

About five seconds later, I heard the chime that tells you that the picture has been saved.

Now I'm standing there struggling with the fact that this boy just took a picture of my credit card.

Yes, he played it off well, because had we not had the same kind of phone, I probably would never have known what happened.

Verdict:

Needless to say, I immediately canceled that card as I was walking out of the pizza parlor.

+ + +

All I am saying is, be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Whenever you are using your credit card take caution and don't be careless.

Notice who is standing near you and what they are doing when you use your card.

Be aware of phones, because many have a camera phone these days.


+ + +

Never let your card out of your sight. Check and check again!
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Obligatory Seven Year Itch

This weblog turned seven years old today. We have been keeping track of the visitor count for exactly three years.

Today we clocked in at about 110,400, which is pretty consistent over the long haul, at roughly one hundred visitors a day. We tend to get more during the week, and they drop off a bit over the weekends. Apparently most of you have lives, or something.

I seem to have one too. After all, this being Father's Day, I was sufficiently feted over the weekend. On Saturday, Sal took me to dinner, and we watched The Chronicles of Narnia for the umpteenth time at my house. Today my son Paul and I went to brunch after Mass, and then to (finally!) see the J J Abrams' (totally awesome) production of Star Trek.

It should be noted that voting began two or three weeks ago, for what was once called the Catholic Blog Awards, and is now called the Catholic New Media Awards. This only makes sense, for two reasons. One is that new categories have been introduced for podcasts. Maybe someday they'll introduce awards for videocasts. On the other hand, while leaving out categories like "Best Social/Political Commentary," they re-entered some rather arbitrary categories like "Best Blog by a Man" and "Best Blog by a Woman" (or, as Kathy Shaidle preferred to call it after winning one, "Best Uterus," which says it all, really).

The other reason it makes sense, is that winners are increasingly recognized for their merits in NEW media, as opposed to their efforts merely being a sideline for OLD media, meaning print. The best example is Creative Minority Report, but there are a number of others. We are also seeing a rising crop of new writers, new voices for the Catholic message. They are also too numerous to mention here, but our "Plug This" series will highlight some of them over the course of the year.

There are no illusions here about being a major contender for the Awards. They recognize only the winner, and having no longer any provision for "finalists," the rest are simply "nominees." You can nominate yourself and get an award like the one depicted here. (How else could I have gotten one?) Without cheap gimmicks or hawking books or bragging about a high-drama conversion story, one is left to fall back on what we hope to be considered as good writing on the issues of the day, not to mention the occasional spiritual reflections, all through a decidedly Catholic lens. That has proven sufficient fare for an astute and devoted few of you, and I am forever grateful.

Here at man with black hat, we will be slowly introducing new features. We are taking advantage of Twitter in alerting followers to new stories as they develop, and eventually we will fully incorporate such apps into the site. One thing being looked into, is a renewable video feed for the sidebar, from a reliable source. We had one picked out, but had trouble with the code getting it to fit into the sidebar. Our Research and Development Team is completely stumped, and is looking for a code geek with an hour or two on his hands. We'll send the code, and you walk us through the magic.

But the coming week, we expect to be quite busy. I will be in training all day to learn Final Cut Pro, a high-end video softward application from Apple. The accompanying clip will provide an introductory tutorial, to show you what is ahead for yours truly in the day job. I have been a professional graphic designer for over thirty years, most of it with the Federal Government. By this time next year, I'll probably list my occupation as "multimedia designer." Or something.

Who knows, maybe one day you will see a weekly videocast here. You would think that, going on fifty-five years old, I would be thinking about retiring. Fortunately, I'm having way too much fun getting paid.

And so it goes.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

We call them “the boys of summer.” They are the men who play for our national pastime. Our memories of childhood are filled with their exploits, amidst our lazy days in the sun.

The first day of summer (as defined by the turning of the planet's axis, as opposed to the popular culture) is drawing nigh. Last month, on the 21st, the baseball teams of the University of South Florida and the University of Connecticut faced one another, in the annual Big East Baseball Tournament. This clip shot by the staff at Bright House Field shows the result of two teams waiting through a five-hour rain.

So it goes as we welcome the season, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Play ball.

[Stolen from June Cleaver without permission or shame, when she was too busy ogling photos of Matthew McConaughey to notice.]
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In corde Jesu

Image courtesy Fisheaters.comToday, Catholics of the Western tradition celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life, than this feast that occurs on the Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier solemnity that a Novena to the Sacred Heart began, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

"Christ's open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love." (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. "He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart." To say the least.

But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. It is from the series' sixth season, and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18). It originally aired on April 18, 1999. It seems there were people being murdered by their hearts being removed by hand. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) visited this Catholic church, and coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this creepy guy who explains the story behind the image to her. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

"I often come here to look at this painting. It's called 'My Divine Heart' after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand."

His account portrays an almost sensuous quality to the Saint's reaction to this vision, in a way I have read or heard no where else. And just when we thought the influence of Christendom had faded from the popular culture. Hope breeds eternal...

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole she-bang, just in case it makes a comeback.

It could happen.

[The preceding was posted for the same occasion in previous years, as some things need never be improved upon. Image is provided courtesy of Fisheaters.com, and is used without permission or shame.]
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There Was An Old Lady

Summer is upon us, and with it come fond memories of summer camp. One cannot imagine the news channels reminding us of the songs we sung around the campfire, but these days, you never know. And whatever one's opinion of the subject in question, we must concede that most of us could never do this on the first try.

Yeah, he got the sucker. (UPDATE: Meanwhile, PETA responds.)

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled, and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
But, I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird.
How absurd, to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
I don't know why she swalloed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.
Just like that, she swallowed a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wiggled and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
I don't know why she swallowed the fly;
Perhaps, she'll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a dog.
What a hog, to swallow a dog! [etc.]

There was an old lady who swallowed a goat.
Just opened her throat, and swallowed a goat! [etc.}

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow.
I don't know how, but she swallowed a cow! [etc.]

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse.
She's dead, ofcourse! [song ends here-no more repeating]

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One Minute Theatre: Kill Bill (Parts One and Two)

“The lioness has rejoined her cub, and all is right in the jungle.”

It should be obvious by now, that I have had very little to say this past week. Not that I don't want to; there are at least three pieces in draft form as this is written.

We come to moments in our lives, whether personal or professional, when Providence has its amusement at our expense, by giving us exactly what we have been praying for, when we least expect it. Some very significant things are happening with my professional life over the next three months. They are of sufficient magnitude, as to affect my career path over the next five to ten years. It is such events that weight heavily upon me of late. I would pray for the gift of Fortitude, that I may aspire to higher things in the course of my livelihood.

None of this should dissuade us from another Wednesday midday episode of “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh, thanks once again to our friends at the University of York Filmmaking Society.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“ABC, tumble down D...”

Of the so-called “Big Three” networks, I have always considered ABC to be -- this cannot really be saying much -- the least biased.

Until now...

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care... Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

No, I do not buy their official explanation either.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

On this day in 1777, the Continental Congress of the newly independent United States of America passed a resolution, adopting a design for a national flag.

Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.

The above description left considerable room for latitude in detail, but the so-called “Betsy Ross” design of red stripes at the outside, and the union bearing the original thirteen five-pointed stars in a circle, was the one ultimately accepted. (My personal favorite has always been the “Bennington Flag,” but I digress.) President Wilson signed a decree establishing the holiday in 1916, and this was matched by an Act of Congress in 1949. To this day, it is not an official Federal holiday, but all real Americans make an effort to fly the colors on this day.

The flag is draped over the coffin of the deceased at military funerals, and custom does call for a specific manner of folding it before the casket is interred. (See above.) Having been in attendance at a funeral with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, I can attest to the ceremony’s ability to stir the heart of any American.

Each time a new State joins the Union, an additional star is added to the union of the flag, calling for a new arrangement thereof. So far, there are plans on the drawing board of the US Army Institute of Heraldry for up to 56 stars.

Our nation's national anthem is less about her special attributes or the loyalty of her subjects, than it is about her flag, such is the level of devotion paid to it. And so, to honor the occasion, we here at mwbh would like to share a story, sent to us (albeit in a roundabout way) by Chaplain Jim Higgins. He tells of an incident that occurred amongst our troops serving in Iraq in May of 2007.

+ + +

I recently attended a showing of “Superman 3” here at LSA Anaconda (Balad Airport in Iraq, north of Baghdad). We have a large auditorium we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings.

As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through when the National Anthem music stopped. Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here, the 1,000 soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again. The soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter, as everyone finally sat down and expected the movie to start. But here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every soldier continued to stand at attention.

Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off: “And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq.


+ + +

HOO-rah.

[FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: On this day in 1952, my parents were married, in a country parish church east of Cincinnati. I was not invited.]
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Friday, June 12, 2009

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” was the most successful hit recorded by the Welsh pop singer Bonnie Tyler, reaching the number one spot in 1983, on the American, Australian, Canadian, and British charts. The song, written by producer Jim Steinman, was originally offered to Meat Loaf (aka Michael Lee Aday), but his record company turned it down. Not enough high drama, perhaps.

For this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we feature both the original music video, as well as the ever-popular (at least for yours truly) “literal remix” version. There is also a website where you can get audio clips and lyrics of the song in a dozen languages. Maybe this will raise the high drama for some of you (as it also requires a mild content warning). Something about Fonzie being cloned. Aaaaay!
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One Minute Theatre: Anything Can Happen

Once again, it is midday on Wednesday, and time for another “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh.

In this installment, two guys playing billiards debate as to whether God exists. The atheist is particularly obnoxious. I mean, how can anyone answer a question, when the loser who’s asking can’t shut his yap long enough to hear it? But just then, something happens that... well, It’s kind of like its own “Big Bang” theory, okay?

The guys have been asking the YouTube audience if they should make a sequel. Personally, I think the Big Question has already been answered, don’t you think?

Or don’t you?
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Buddy, Can You Spare A Trillion?

If you want to know how much our national recovery (and America as a whole) is costing us, check near the bottom of our sidebar beginning today, because the meter is running. One click on the “national debt clock,” and you will be led to a site with what claims to have “the facts.” Some of it is a bit misleading, though. The whiz kids running this site blame President Hoover for getting us into the Great Depression, on the premise that a President is to blame for everything the Government does on his watch. This is simply not true, as Congress can be just as responsible. (They’re the Government, too, right? We keep putting them back into office for another term, right??? Duh...) In the case of the Depression, Hoover did what he could to stop it. But he was a Republican president facing a Democrat-controlled Congress, and they weren’t about to let him get past them. So FDR came afterwords, and got credit for a lot of Hoover’s ideas.

My daddy told me all about it when I was a young’un. He was there.

Meanwhile, these bozos (who were most likely NOT there) also maintain that “[m]ost Republicans would rather not see their country crushed by a depression just to prove an ideological point, even if it was correct.” Well, if their voting record in Congress shows this, they are no more likely to get elected than their opponents. Besides, real conservatives tend to conserve. That’s whey they call them “conservatives,” you big dummy!

FDR also got credit for getting us out of the Depression. He didn’t. WW2 did that. But he should get a lot of credit for introducing deficit spending into our way of life.

And now you get to watch it. Oh boy.
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Monday, June 08, 2009

Mel

As a boy, I read that singer Perry Como never allowed his family to be photographed in public, or otherwise exposed to the limelight by his publicists. He went so far as to not even allow them on his TV Christmas specials, unlike other artists of the time. For all that, he could still return to his hometown on the southern outskirts of Pittsburgh, and walk into his favorite barbershop, as if he had never left.

If you can be famous enough, yet still comfortable in your own skin, that fame will never get the best of you. Now, I know some bloggers who have a problem handling it. Imagine life in Hollywood.

I was reminded of the above, as I read today's piece in The Catholic Thing about the recent challenges facing actor/director Mel Gibson, in light of his impending divorce, and revelations of a child out of wedlock with his Russian-model-girlfriend. Oh, and that drinking thing.

After describing all the things that made Scott handsome, especially his “delicate long-lipped Irish mouth,” Hemingway adds his usual ironic twist: “This should not have added up to a pretty face, but that came from the coloring, the very fair hair and the mouth. The mouth worried you until you got to know him and then it worried you more.”

With Mel Gibson it’s his eyes. There has always been something wild and sad in his eyes, especially in his mug shots.

"The windows of the soul" were what the good nuns called them, who taught us back in the day. The TCT article also quotes an interview of several years ago:

There is nothing more important than your family. If you ruin that part of your life, what’s left? Work? Money? Screwing around? I see a lot of people living like that tell themselves they’re having a good time, but if you look under the surface you see lots of corpses masquerading as human beings.

Mel is right about the importance of home and family, especially as it relates to the core of one's being. It would appear that he has been torn between two forces in his life, and that he believed he could straddle them both on his own terms. If this is so, it is likely that he has failed, and I suspect his life will never be the same.

Inasmuch as I have admired his work over the years, I don't feel the contempt that one might feel for a hypocrite. That is not how I would describe him. The way I would describe him, is like half the people I meet.

We are all Mel Gibson. I am Mel Gibson. And I don't know about you, but I've been lucky.

So far.
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Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Zeal of Thy House

Children of men,
    lift up your hearts...
Praise Him that He
    hath made man
        in His own image,
            a maker
And craftsman like Himself,
    a little mirror
        of His Triune Majesty.
For every work of creation
    is threefold,
        an earthly Trinity
to match the heavenly.

-- Dorothy Sayers (1893–1957)
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Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day: The Commemorative Freudian Slip

It happens almost halfway through the clip, and it is a sad commentary on the state of things.

This was supposed to be about remembering those who died sixty-five years ago, in a noble endeavor to prevent tyranny from taking over the world. But oh, no, it has to be about somebody in the present day, who cannot appear on nearly enough magazine covers.
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Friday, June 05, 2009

Miss West Virginia is the subject of this week’s installment of the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, when she is asked about her most embarrassing moment. Can anyone please tell me what she has to be sorry about?

Then can anyone please tell me how I could have avoided ending that last sentence with a preposition?
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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The View From Kansas

Since the murder of Kansas abortionist George Tiller this past Sunday, most of us in the Catholic blogosphere have been dancing around the issue, in the hopes that the mainstream press will not bully yet another one of us into intimidation. Stephen Heiner of Overland Park, Kansas, is unfazed by this prospect, which contributed to his having written the best piece on the subject. Anywhere.

He was caught, without foreknowledge, without the opportunity to say goodbye to anyone, in the one place where he thought he would be safe. In a sense, he died in the way that he murdered children – who were caught, without foreknowledge, without the opportunity to say goodbye to anyone, in the one place where it thought it might be safe – its mother’s womb... I may not endorse this vigilante’s behavior [emphasis added], but I will accept the benefits of the result. Fewer children will die because of his death.

Yes, even better than mine.
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Columbine Revisited

There were quite a few responses to the post “Bullies for Columbine” this past April. When I have to count them on both hands, it's remarkable. (When I have to use my fingers AND toes... well, it's been a while.) One comment came in today from an anonymous author, which is worthy of notice.

Currently I am working on my thesis and the topic is specific type of bullying in US schools. I've probably read every book/article (including Cullen's which people are quoting here), written about Columbine in the past 10 years; plus the Columbine Review Commission, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Dept's Final Report on Columbine, Eric Harris' web pages, Dylan Klebold's journal and a vast amount of scholarly articles on the topic.

My conclusions? Dave Cullen's hypothesis is partly correct (Harris was a sociopath who was filled with rage) as is Brooks Brown's theory (Harris & Klebold were bullied at Columbine and a "toxic" environment ran through the school).

It is a fact that Columbine had bullies, people testified to that fact at the CO's Govenor's Review Commission. Yes, bullying occurred at Columbine!

To all the doubters, if you read the TIME article, 12/20/99, you will see quotes from Columbine students talking about homophobic epithets that were used in reference to Harris & Klebold and their friends. That is a prime example of bullying, as defined by any school district.

On the other hand, per Harris and Klebold's writings, they also were bullies themselves and they posted racial, homophobic and religious hate on their web pages and in their journals. So the Columbine killers are not free from blame at all.

As a former high school teacher, I can tell you that bullying has happened at every high school I have ever worked at. Each administration had a different response to it. Some were very bad (school in a rural town in FL who babied the jocks and bullying was brushed aside) and others that had the correct response: zero tolerance (suburban school outside a big city).

But the one good thing that I have found that did come out of Columbine and some of the other school shootings is a renewed effort by school officials to make sure bullying doesn't happen in "their" school. Yes, sometimes a particular school isn't on that game plan and that is when parents must speak up - and LOUDLY!

So glad your son is doing well now. As a former teacher it breaks my heart to hear stories of children who have attempted suicide because of bullying.


Hopefully, our correspondent could turn their opus into a book, in which case we might just promote it here.

The lesson for parents remains: Get a clue, get involved, talk to your kids.
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One Minute Theatre: Michel Kuik

Michel Kuik is a 25-year-old student of interactive media in Amsterdam. In this week’s installment of “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh, time is either running out, or passing by.

Perhaps it depends on where you are standing.
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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Diverse Diversions

[Here at mwbh we want to give a shout out to all the Mark Shea readers who are joining our little party. The item you are looking for is halfway through this piece. You know how to scroll, don't you?]

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington has produced the Washington Folk Festival since the early- or mid-1970s. (It says it is the “29th annual” festival, but they haven’t had it every year, so there ya go...) I used to go on occasion when I first moved here, but I never had anything to do with it. Then in 1992, I became editor/designer for the program guide. I've been involved with the annual event ever since.

By the time he was about ten, my son Paul would hand out programs or be a stage hand. By fourteen, he was running a sixteen-track sound board. I really liked watching that part of it. And they have been the best volunteer group in the world with which to work. No political harangues, no egotistical nonsense, just ordinary people dedicated to a common cause. It is such a rare thing in volunteer work, I simply cannot bear to leave it behind.

I had not visited the festival itself for two or three years, so I stayed around this time. You won't see me in the video clip, but you will see a Romanian folk dance called “Rustemul” (pronounced ROOS-teh-mule, or roo-STEH-moo, depending on whom you ask), a word that means “the Russian.” I used to love this dance, and I had not done it in at least twelve years.

Just like riding a bike.

While I was doing that, Paul had other ideas. He went to New York City to compete in the US Air Guitar Championship. “Rookie Sanjar the Destroyer took second place (34.4), only half a point ahead of third runnerup Fender Splendor (aka Paul Alexander).” Now, the scene in the video clip is not for everybody, but my family found it most amusing. You would never know that as a senior in high school, he read Plato's Republic, and has since read Alexis de Tocqueville and Leo Tolstoy, all for his own amusement. And among the favorite books listed on his MySpace page, is the Summa Theologicae.

Meanwhile, a young man of twenty-three is often engaged in what the old folks would call “high spirits.” I’m just thankful he learned to play the real (bass) guitar I got him for Christmas in ’07. Whatever keeps him out of real trouble is okay with me.

What can I say, the kid still cracks me up.
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Monday, June 01, 2009

The Once and Future Century

I have been writing a novel about the future. The preliminary research and extensive note-taking began over a year ago. The story itself started being written about two months ago. Recently, I have come across two sources.

The first is a book by George Friedman entitled The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. Friedman is founder and CEO of STRATFOR, a leading private intelligence and forecasting company. Employing a cyclical theory of history, and taking some lessons from the past, this book informs the reader as to why China will fall apart by 2020 (not as big a stretch as you think), how Poland will become a major world power by 2050 (every bit as big a stretch as you think), and about Mexico's attempt to challenge the USA for the southwestern states by 2100 (wow, never saw that one coming!).

Oh, and tensions between the USA and radical Islam have already peaked, and will subside by 2020. (I know; I had the same reaction.)

The other source will appear on ABC-TV tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Earth 2100 is a two-hour special documentary, hosted by Bob Woodruff, which explores the possible scenarios for civilization in the next century. Obviously I have not seen it yet, so I cannot say for certain how much real science will be applied, as opposed to the pseudo-scientific advocacy that has pushed ”global warming” theories on humanity (as opposed to thirty years ago, when they warned us of the coming Ice Age). But the video clips that appear on the ABC website show some intriguing possibilities, for good or for ill.

Subjects like this, while intriguing, are best taken cum grano salis. Neither example, from what I can tell, goes into any great length on trust in Divine Providence. This puts them at a significant disadvantage.
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