man with black hat
the daily musings ...
of faith and culture, of life and love, of fun and games, of a song and dance man, who is keeping his day job.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One Minute Theatre: Citizen Kane
It is midday Wednesday, and time for another rousing rendition of “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh.
This particular entry is not so rousing, actually, if only because there is no soundtrack. This is a Post Haste Production by Kate Schreiber, depicting the essence of the classic movie “Citizen Kane.” It was created entirely in Adobe Flash.
I've created several animations in my lifetime. One of these days ...
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Providence Effect
... is a major new theatrical documentary that will change the way America thinks about teaching our children. It captures how one school in the inner city of Chicago, Providence Saint Mel, has created the method and the environment where children learn to think and to overcome social barriers, family circumstances and financial pressures to become high achieving students.
This movie is currently appearing in select theaters. Look for it in your area.
You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High. He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.
So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.
-- from a sermon of Pope Saint Gregory the Great
1 And the LORD spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the LORD thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments ...
[POSTSCRIPT: There have been reports that the participants were saying "Oh God" and not "Obama," like it's some vast right-wing conspiracy going on. It has been pretty well established that there's some excessive hero worship going on in America lately. That being said, some people's ears work fine without help from anybody's conspiracy. Meanwhile, certain other people are just pissed because they got caught.]
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
'Twas battered and scarred,
and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely
worth his while
To waste much time
on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
"What am I bidden,
good folks," he cried.
"Who'll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?"
"Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
Going for three"... But no,
From the room far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said; "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with its bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand twice,
and going and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage", a glass of wine;
A game and he travels on.
He is "going" once, he is "going" twice,
He is "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.
+ + +
Myra Brooks Welch was a resident of La Verne, California. Known as "the poet with the singing soul," she was born in 1877, into a very musical family. As a young woman, she loved to play the organ.
In 1921, inspired by a lecture given to students, she "became filled with light," and wrote the above poem in a mere thirty minutes. Considering it to be a gift of God, she had it published anonymously in her church bulletin. The news of this magical poem spread far and wide. Some years later, upon hearing it read at an international church convention, and hearing it attributed to "author unknown," a young man stood up, and told the crowd: "I know the author, and it's time the world did too. It was written by my mother, Myra Welch."
She suffered severe arthritis in her later years before dying in 1959. Her ability to play music was long gone, but she found her muse through her poetry.
A song of the same name, based upon the original Welch poem, was written and recorded by John Daniel Sumner (1924-1998), an American southern gospel singer/songwriter, who at one point led a band that toured with Elvis Presley in the early 1970s. A video clip of that song appears above with this poem.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The Mouths of Babes
I was starting kindergarten as the 1960 Presidential elections were coming to a head. We sat with the teacher in front of a chalkboard, and were asked which of the two major candidates we wanted for President. I wouldn't say that a town founded by Methodists, whose descendants were still prominent in civic life, was rife with anti-Catholicism. But there were the occasional references to "Catlickers," and the knowledge that we were not like other Christians. So the idea that "one of our boys" was running for President was a pretty big deal; big enough that it was the only thing I knew about Kennedy. So he was my choice.
On election day, I went to class as always. I peeked out the hall during a break to see Mom coming down the hall. Our precinct used the cafeteria of that school for polling, and I asked her who she voted for. She said Nixon. I was shocked, and later found out that Dad voted for Nixon too. But, hey, I told them, Kennedy is a Catholic. Why didn't you vote for him? (I was going on six years old, remember?) In the beginning, they would only say, well we just don't agree with his policies. As I got older, I was to learn more.
It is likely a different experience for these little tykes at an elementary school in New Jersey, where they are taught (and this isn't the first time we've seen this) to sing hymns of praise for the President as though this was North Korea and he was their Dear Leader. (Notice I didn't mention the other obvious example, because that would be racist. Or something.) And it comes as no surprise to this long-time federal employee, that the teacher responsible for the shenanigans had already retired by the time things hit the fan. Wanna bet they are never called into account? Trust me, the teacher who hatched this nonsense is sitting on a beach in Florida right now, sipping on drinks with little umbrellas in them, reading about this story, and laughing her fat @$$ off.
Now, mind you, I voted for Ronald Reagan -- twice. And even I had problems with them naming Washington's National Airport, and Cincinnati's Cross County Highway, after him. He wasn't even dead yet, okay? This is a dangerous trend, elevating a President to god-like status. It is also at odds with what the Founding Fathers intended. Even Republicans forget what a bunch of suck-ups they can be if they put their minds to it.
Meanwhile, our malfeasant school district in New Jersey has gotta be really dumb to play innocent on this one. Not that they're wasting any time. The good news is, the parents are really ticked off. That might be just enough for the superintendent to sit up and take notice -- if he ever comes out from under his desk.
“Hooked On A Feeling” was written by Mark James. Originally performed by B J Thomas and released in 1969, it reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100. Most people remember the 1974 version by the Swedish band Blue Swede, best known for its “ooka shaka” introduction. This is the one that made number one on the American charts. What most people don't remember, is that in 1971, Jonathan King produced his own recording of it with the ooka shaka schtick, that was a Top 30 hit in Europe.
We here at mwbh have noticed that David Hasselhoff has been going through a bit of a rough patch lately. So we've decided to feature his 1997 version of the same as a “literal remix” video, complete with disco party groove, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Can I Put You On Hold... Forever?
You would think that with all the methods of communication at our disposal, the task of communicating would be easier. I think it's gotten harder.
I can remember in the 1960s, when our phone was on a party line. If it was for us, we got a ring. But the person who had our line could get on and complain that we were tying up the phone. I remember this happening as late as 1970. "You kids shouldn't be on for more than fifteen minutes, you hear me?" Yes, ma'am.
We certainly didn't have second lines at home. Ever try to talk to someone who has call waiting? "Oh, excuse me, but I've just GOT to take this call." Why? It seems there's always someone in the world who's more important than you are.
I have call waiting. It came with the package, what can I tell ya? I get those kinds of calls too. Ninety-five percent of the time, I ignore them. You know why? Because I'm talking to someone else already, you big dummy! And you're going to have to wait like someone who wasn't raised in a damn barn. Only rarely do I interrupt, and that's for a genuine emergency. And by that, I mean matters of life or death. But for most of us, an "emergency" is when we're talking to Barbie, and Susie is on the other line, and we've been trying to reach her for a good ten or fifteen minutes about whether she's bringing potato salad or cole slaw to the PTA picnic. God knows it takes at least thirty minutes for her to call back. So Barbie's just going to have to wait to finish telling us why her husband just left her for his secretary for Cancun after cleaning out the bank account. Barbie's a big girl. She can stay right on that ledge and hold off on jumping ten stories until we can call back.
You can forget about continuing a friendship with someone across the country who has to act like they're in such demand. And they've ALWAYS got a perfectly good excuse. And you are a self-indulgent pig not to entertain their multi-tasking prowess.
We want more out of our ability to communicate, but our own minds cannot handle the deluge. We cut corners with our civility, and we make people feel worthless. Misunderstandings occur when we assume that talking on a phone, or the cryptic abbreviations known as text messaging, are the same as a real conversation. The more we try to take in for the sake of understanding, the more we miss. And we lose a piece of our humanity when we do.
All the means in the world to send a message means nothing, because our ability to listen didn't keep up with the technology. It all happened faster than we could find the next Emily Post to tell us what was okay or not okay. So we're on our own. How are we... hey, I've got another call. Gotta go.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
One Minute Theatre: A Squid Like Me
This week's edition of One Minute Theatre here at mwbh, is a view of the human condition from the vantage point of... well, a squid. There has to be a message here somewhere.
This work was directed and animated by Tatiana Moshkova, written and narrated by Michael S U Hudson, with sound design by Oliver Lewis. Tatiana is 22 years old, and is director of animation at St Petersburg State University in Russia.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Kreeft Revisited: “Plumbing Theology 101”
Yesterday, we recommended Dr Kreeft's explanation of "Sexual Symbolism" to facilitate a Catholic understanding of God, all creation, His Church on Earth, and the priests who serve Her.
[W]hy is Christ's maleness essential? Because he is the revelation of the Father, and the Father's masculinity is essential...
To understand this second proposition, we must distinguish "male" from "masculine." Male and female are biological genders. Masculine and feminine, or yang and yin, are universal, cosmic principles, extending to all reality, including spirit.
All pre-modern civilizations knew this. English is almost the only language that does not have masculine and feminine nouns. So it is easy for us who speak English to believe that the ancients merely projected their own biological gender out onto nature in calling heaven masculine and earth feminine, day masculine and night feminine, sun masculine and moon feminine, land masculine and sea feminine... this universal and fairly consistent human instinct is [an] insight into a cosmic principle...
Once we look, we find abundant analogical evidence for it from the bottom of the cosmic hierarchy to the top, from the electromagnetic attraction between electrons and protons to the circumincession of divine Persons in the Trinity. Male and female are only the biological version of cosmic masculine and feminine. God is masculine to everything, from angels to prime matter. That is the ultimate reason why priests, who represent God to us, must be male.
One's first impression might be that such reading would be too dense. Within the good Doctor's explanation, is precisely why it is not. (We highlighted those parts in case you miss them.)
Now, quit being a 'fraidy-cat and try reading the rest of it.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Peter Kreeft Explains It All For You
For the longest time, what the Church taught about only men being called to the priesthood, was something with which I neither agreed or disagreed. It was something I accepted, nothing more.
Most defenses of Her position, frankly, were inconclusive. Yes, Christ was incarnated as a male, but it was either that or the other choice. So what? God could have flipped a coin for all we know. Yes, Christ chose only males as His first Apostles, and as His first priests. But why only males? We're not explaining the Holy Trinity here. There is an identifiable, measurable defense to be sought, one that can put the opposition squarely to rest, or at least to leave it wondering.
Until about sixteen years ago, I never found it.
Then I read an article in Crisis magazine by Dr Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College. Not only did he defend the Church's position on the priesthood, but he explained why Her position was worth defending. To do so, is not only to understand the nature of the ministerial priesthood, but the nature of the universe, and its relationship with the God who created it.
At the time, I was in a scripture study group which included another professor of philosophy. A prominent lay leader at a progressive urban parish run by (who else?) the Jesuits, "Siobahn" openly expressed curiosity about this teaching, stopping short of agreeing with it outright. So I made copies of the article, and shared them with the whole group. Sometime after that, Siobahn expressed her assent to this teaching, which may have contributed to her fall from grace among the intellectual cabal that dominated parish life there.
Some years afterward, the internet became a part of our lives, including my own. I went so far as to get permission from the publisher to reproduce the article on the Web, but something always came up.
Dr Kreeft has had a website for a number of years...
...which has expanded to include more excerpts of his published works, as well as audio clips of his recorded talks.
Despite a rather silly title -- "Why Only Boys Can Be the Daddies" -- it is far and away the finest presentation on the Church's teaching in this area for general audiences. Bar none. The finest. Ever. It was also one of two parts of a book published by Franciscan University Press, now sadly (and mistakenly) out of print, entitled Women and the Priesthood.
If you can't sit still for an hour and four minutes to find out for yourself (and it's worth it, trust me), perhaps you can endure the following print excerpt consisting of one of the four reasons presented, in this case on the "Sexual Symbolism" of said teaching -- also known by certain smarty-pants pseudo-intellectuals as "plumbing theology."
Obviously that's the best they can do.
Meanwhile, if the gang at Steubenville ever has enough good sense to
Doc, if you're out there reading this, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. Your oblivion to that alone renders you ill-prepared to teach objective subject matter like the Faith to your own children, never mind anyone else's. If the loss of that privilege means so much to you, it is all the more reason to find out why, and listening to the presentation linked above is one place to start.
Because the only way to really stand up to anything, is to actually know what it is.
(H/T to Rich Leonardi. Photo of Dr Kreeft from his website. Photo of Dr Egner from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Both are reproduced here without permission or shame.)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
A Day in the Life (if you can call this living...)
By year's end, I will have lived and worked in the Nation's capital for twenty-nine years. The first twenty were the hardest. I've learned to like it here, but every now and then, I'm reminded of what I could live without.
The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.
Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"
Oh, please don't tell me she's that dense.
Now I know these Secret Service guys have a tough job, and I know that statutory law, and not the whim of a particular office-holder, dictates the measures they take. But I've been around these guys when they're in Hot And Bothered Mode. I refuse to be in a building, or at an event, where the President or Vice President or one of their wives is speaking, if I can help it. (The exception is the White House South Lawn. They're too far away to bother you.) If you want to be made to feel like the lowly peasant you are, let these gorillas shove you around one way or the other, or bar you from leaving an auditorium to use the bathroom, all in the name of keeping the world safe
Oh, and then there was the time a few years ago, when I was walking south on 17th Street, heading back to the office, minding my own damn business, and a White House policeman started barking at me like a damn drill sergeant to walk the other way with everyone else, and only then did I notice that they were all going north. I accessed a news report on my cell phone. Seems there was a bomb scare, or a crank phone call, or something.
The President was out of town.
In a recent discussion with schoolchildren in Arlington that got a share of attention, the President lamented not being able to go wherever he wanted without all this entourage. I'd feel sorry for such a guy, were it not for the fact that 1) he knew the job was like this when he ran for it, and 2) it's worse for the rest of us.
Friday, September 18, 2009
We’ve been following the news back home in Cincinnati.
It seems that a Sister of Charity was forced to relenquish her teaching position by the Archbishop, after refusing to disassociate herself from groups or positions supporting the ordination of women. Then there was a catechist from the West Side who wrote a letter to the editor of the Enquirer supporting the Sister, because she was too stupid to realize that her pastor would be obliged to remove her from teaching catechism. (I've seen the interview on video. We're talking a few bricks shy of a load here, okay?)
It's at moments like this, that "art imitates life." And so, this scene from a Monty Python flick will fit the bill for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Mary Travers Revisited
[Tonight we remember folksinger Mary Travers, who has just passed away at the age of 72. According to the website: "After successful recovery from leukemia through a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, Mary succumbed to the side effects of one of the chemotherapy treatments." We here at mwbh are reprinting a piece highlighting the trio of Peter Paul and Mary, from our Summer of Love series of 2007.]
It is safe to say that the 1960s was a transformative decade in terms of the popular culture. But much of that could be narrowed down just to the period of 1963 to 1968. The former saw the untimely assassination of a young and charismatic American president, who spoke of how "the torch has been passed to a new generation." The latter was also witness to a senseless death, that of Martin Luther King Jr, and to the urban rioting and campus protests that followed. Both were reflected in the social commentary put to music.
Among the most notable of folk balladeers were the trio known as Peter Paul and Mary (consisting of Peter Yarrow, Noel "Paul" Stookey and Mary Travers). They were put together in 1961 by a manager named Albert Grossman, who wanted "a tall blonde (Travers), a funny guy (Stookey) and a good looking guy (Yarrow)." Everybody needs a gimmick, right? It must have worked, because they have been together ever since.
The first clip is from a 1963 performance of a song entitled "If I Had A Hammer." Interspersed is a commentary by its composer, Pete Seeger. I decided to include it anyway.
As a boy, and a budding guitar player, I wore out the family's copy of Peter Paul and Mary's 1963 album "In the Wind." It was released by Warner Brothers in October 1963, one month before the Kenndey assassination, and a few months before The Beatles landed in America to herald "the British Invasion." It was a time when what some of us call "the folk music scare" was at its peak. The increasing popularity of the new sound, combined with the waning of the "hootenanny" craze, did not deter the urgency of PP&M's social message, even though before the end of the decade, it may have gotten a little hazy. The first time I saw the performance in the clip below was in 1968. Now, if someone could only tell me what the hell these people are trying to say...
Don't think twice, it's alright.
How big was the crowd...
The Audacity of...
I couldn't resist this one. Fake News Guy Jon Stewart fails to mention whose political aspirations just happened to go through the roof, with the totally-on-the-record assistance of this organization. But if comedians are the barometer of social trends, we could be witnessing a battle for hearts and minds that extends beyond the salons of the East and West coasts, and into flyover country.
Then again, probably not. (Mild content warning.)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
An Inconvenient List
Recently, we have been talking about the need for the American people to engage themselves more comprehensively in the issues that affect them. Susan Ferrechio is Chief Congressional Correspondent for The Washington Examiner. She's agreed to help us out with a set of questions you can pose to your congressional representative at the next town hall meeting he or she is so eager to conduct for you. Here goes...
1. Who would foot the bill for extending health insurance to 30 million more Americans?
2. Would doctors and hospitals be able to cope with the expected influx of millions of new patients?
3. Wouldn't illegal immigrants still get care, often for free, in hospitals?
4. Who would enforce the requirement that individuals have coverage?
5. Will employers stop providing health care coverage if a public plan is available?
6. How can spending less on Medicare produce better care for participants?
7. What other programs would need to be cut if Obama's promised savings don't materialize?
8. Similar plans have failed in several states. How would a federal plan avoid the same fate?
9. Can the president make good on his promise not to "add one dime" to the national debt?
10. The president says that he can save $500 billion in waste and fraud in Medicare. Has the government ever succeeded in such an ambitious cutting effort?
11. Is it true, as the president and Democratic leaders have argued, that "special interests" are trying to block reform?
12. Do we need "demonstration projects" on medical malpractice reforms to find effective ways to control lawsuit costs?
Someone once said: "Decisions are made by those who show up." You know what to do.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Go Man (Up), Young West!
Most of us will say that we considered our parents wrong about everything when we were young, but that our assessment did a one-eighty by the time we reached 25, or thereabouts. I, on the other hand, haven't changed my assessment at all. The things I thought my parents were right about then, I still think they were right today. For those times when I thought they were way out in left field... oh, no, I remain resolute.
There is one exception, however, and one only.
When I was in college, my Dad mused about the advent of what he called "sophisticated slobs." These were people with comfortable, even privileged upbringings, with advanced educations, whose manner in polite society and public discourse did not at all reflect such breeding. My old man, bless his heart, got bent out of shape over many things, but at one solitary moment in his life, he was very prophetic. (There was one other time, actually, and that's another story, but it happened while I was stuck in a car with him. I don't like to think about it.)
So the old man was right about guys like Kanye West, who interrupted the acceptance speech of country-crossover artist 19-year-old Taylor Swift, at the MTV Video Music Awards, to go on a tear because he thought Beyonce's performance was superior. (The actual clip has been pulled due to a copyright claim by Viacom, obviously wanting a piece of the action. The closest we can find at this point can be seen by clicking here.) He had already blamed then-President Bush for not caring about the people of New Orleans, in the face of Hurricane Katrina. After all, what sane person would attribute anything adverse to the proud tradition of political corruption in Louisiana?
Now Kanye takes it to the next level, and brings a nineteen-year-old girl to tears on the most wonderful night of her life. It certainly takes a real man to upstage a girl barely more than half his age. Hopefully she won't be moved to chastise him publicly, because that would be racist.
These are people who make a lot of money, who wear the finest clothes, who eat at the finest restaurants, and who hire people to make damn sure you and I know all about it. If these poncy popinjays could spend just a year in finishing school during a formative part of their rise to fame -- we could settle for a weekend seminar on table manners at this point -- they would be far less likely to incur the wrath of their audiences in a moment of weakness.
They think they're "keeping it real," as in real dumb! In the meantime, someone has made an effort to pose a scenario which suggests that things could be worse. (H/T to "A.J.")
We'll close the matter of events in Washington last Saturday, with a three-and-a-half-hour time lapse illustration, of what the mainstream media (not to mention certain others in high places) would like to pretend didn't happen right outside their windows. It's hard to get really good at ignoring the obvious, but anything's possible, don't you think?
Or don't you?
(H/T to HotAir.)
[UPDATE: How big was the crowd??? YOU figure it out!]
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Rights to Petition Revisited
There were amazing stories about visitors to the Nation's capital yesterday. “Like the liberal Woodstock of the ’60s, thousands were rumored stranded on freeways. Some walked in to DC, ditching their cars and busses. I walked with a 5 deep 6 block long column of protesters from Pennsylvania Avenue who had walked miles from where they had to leave their busses.”
For all this trouble, the Washington Post described "tens of thousands" in attendance for the great Tea Party in the streets of Washington. ABC News admitted to an estimate of two million. I've seen crowds on the Mall, and I saw the crowd from yesterday. I think ABC nailed this one.
I was going to go into the office to catch up on code work, but I assumed there would have been no street parking anywhere in that part of town, located within a mile of the National Mall.
It is not enough for citizens to direct their wrath at the Nation's President. The head of the executive branch is too easy a target, and his being vanquished would accomplish far less than one might imagine. No, the Nation's citizens must do their homework on the relevant issues. They must ask the hard questions of their local representatives in Congress. They must show to those whom they confront, in overwhelming numbers and in no uncertain terms, that they are not liars, that they are motivated solely by a quest for the truth, and that their elected representatives can be voted out of office as easily as they were voted in -- some of them as early as November of next year. They must stay informed. They must stick to their guns. A government of, by, and for the people, requires their participation, and their vigilance.
And they must behave. This requirement may entertain a double standard (inasmuch as it is not expected by the mainstream media of their opponents), but if all is fair in love and war, this is the playing field in which they find themselves.
Featured today is a clip prepared by the folks of the Tampa Tea Party. Our Founding Fathers have much food for thought. We need to listen to them again, as if for the first time.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
“The right to petition for redress of grievances.”
“We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”
“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
“We must, therefore...”
(In a related story, “A source on Rep Joe Wilson’s campaign says his fundraising has broken $1 million -- and surpassed that of his Democratic rival, Rob Miller -- since his outburst of ’You lie!’...”)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Can’t Cry Hard Enough
I'm gonna live my life
like every day's the last
without a simple goodbye
it all goes by so fast
and now that you're gone
I can't cry hard enough
I can't cry hard enough
for you to hear me now
gonna open my eyes
and see for the first time
I've let go of you like
a child letting go of his kite
There it goes up in the sky
there it goes beyond the clouds
for no reason why
I can't cry hard enough
No, I can't cry hard enough for you to hear me now
gonna look back in vain and see you standing there
when all that remains is just an empty chair
and now that you're gone
I can't cry hard enough, I can't cry hard enough
for you to hear me now
There it goes, up in the sky
there it goes beyond the clouds
for no reason why
I can't cry hard enough, no I can't cry hard enough
for you to hear me now
-- Lyrics and Music by David Williams and Marvin Etzioni, 1990
[POSTSCRIPT 8:46 pm: At about nine-thirty this morning, from my location just west of the White House, I heard what sounded like several cannon shots going off. CNN then came out with a breaking story, which was later translated thus by a local alert to my cell phone: "Activity on the Potomac involving the U.S. Coast Guard is confirmed to be a training exercise." And such a lovely day for one, right? Meanwhile, John Hawkins of Right Wing News muses on the day: "Turning 9/11 into a 'day of service' dishonors the dead. Somebody killed 3000 Americans! Forget it and go plant a tree." After all, isn't it the thought that counts?]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Love Potion Number Nine
The song was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1959, and was recorded that same year by The Clovers. But it was The Searchers who made it number three on the USA charts in 1963. But it's not about number three; it's about number nine, so here it is.
One Minute Theatre: Number Nine
Today's date is September 9, 2009. That would otherwise be rendered as 09/09/09. The time of this being published is 9:09 am local time. So today's One Minute Theatre is brought to you by... what else?
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Comings and Goings
I'll admit it. My publishing schedule has been uneven of late. And just when my weekly readership stats are nearly double the usual average. Makes you wonder whether I simply enjoy being ironic.
Sal left last Friday for the Philippines to visit her family. The visit will run six weeks, more than a week longer than originally scheduled. There's a long story behind that. It's also a boring story. But it means I'm faced with the prospect of going to a wedding alone. Now, there are two things I don't go to alone anymore; weddings, and funerals. Maybe it's just me, but both events have the capacity to bring out the worst in people, and I never see it coming until I'm in the middle of it. But the groom is Paul's cousin, and he's even buying his first suit for this occasion, so he's trying to talk me into it. The jury's still out.
Still, without her coming around, the house is a little too quiet.
I'm very busy with school. I have a project that will determine whether I end up graduating in the spring, or bringing the whole idea to an unceremonious end. It's only a diploma program, and completing it matters less for career purposes, than gaining what the Feds call the KSAs, or "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities." Click here and find out what happens in the next two weeks.
I manage to keep up with the news, or some of it anyway. Today the President spoke to schoolchildren, and the thought of it raised quite a ruckus with some people. He's finding out that being President is a lot more complicated than being a community organizer. You can't just hang with anybody you want and not have it bite you in the ass later. Still, for all the talk about it being unconstitutional and what-not, there's little that is earth-shattering about any President of the United States speaking to the Nation's schoolchildren. I read the advance transcript yesterday. It could have been worse.
Oh, and he does manage to dispense a warning about things in your youth coming back to haunt you later. Who better to know, eh?
Monday, September 07, 2009
The Ant and the Grasshopper
(As a tribute to the workingman for this Labor Day, we here at mwbh wish to pass along an old fable, reworked as a cautionary tale. Included is a little eight-and-a-half-minute something for the young'uns. -- DLA)
OLD VERSION: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Be responsible for yourself!
NEW VERSION: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. CBS,NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.
How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green."
ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We shall overcome." Rev Jeremiah Wright then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake.
Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar. The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ants food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote in 2010.
[H/T to "Dee-Dubya."]
Rights of Burial
...you'll come and find
the place where I am lying
And kneel and say
an "Ave" there for me.
In the weeks following the death and burial of Senator Edward Kennedy, much has been made of whether he deserved a Catholic burial (presumedly, yes), and having settled that, whether he deserved to be effectively canonized by eulogies from a President who wasn't even Catholic, among others (no, just like the rest of us). Carl Olsen gives us a rundown of the issue on Ignatius Press' Insight Scoop:
[Y]ou see, when Sen Kennedy was doing all of his good deeds, he was motivated by the Gospel and Catholic doctrine, but when he mysteriously failed to advocate for the unborn, it was one of those strange mishaps, like Michael Jordan missing a game-winning shot (“Goodness, I guess he is human!”), or Babe Ruth striking out (“Well, who would thunk it possible?”), as if it was the exception to the rule. But for Kennedy, being a driven and vigorous supporter of the culture of death was the rule, with few exceptions. So...
Sean Cardinal O’Malley, as Archbishop of Boston, may have been obliged to make provision for a Catholic burial, but he was more than obliged to keep the event as unadorned as possible. Any of us riff-raff who, say, married outside the Church, or otherwise lived a public life that was less than exemplary, would never have gotten so much as the parish choir to show up, even if we paid them. And you can just forget about them serving lunch afterwards.
What impression does this give us? That “the Church” has one set of rules for people they’re trying to impress, and another set for the rest of us. We’re the ones who have to mind our P’s and Q’s, mind you, as these poncy cake-eating pontificators wrap themselves in the mantle of orthodoxy, as if it were little more than talking a good game.
And these guys wonder why some people don’t take them seriously. These are the times when I don’t.
Thankfully, we may have witnessed the end of an era, an experience of Catholicism in America, recently described by someone, as pre-dominantly northeastern Irish-American, by people who left “the old neighborhood” with their parents by the end of the Big War, who haven't set foot in a real corner bar in years, and who don't have enough sense to know, that the final commendation over the grave is not the time to sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
You're supposed to sing “Danny Boy” you big dummy!!!
(A wee tip o’ the Black Hat to Amy Welborn and Declan Galbraith.)
Thursday, September 03, 2009
My Anglican Moment
It was in the news earlier this summer, a development I had been expecting sooner or later.
Archbishop Edwin F O’Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore, announced today that 10 nuns, formerly members of an Episcopal religious community known as the Society of the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, and the group’s chaplain, Fr Warren Tanghe, were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church at a Mass earlier today.
The story has generated some interest in the Catholic press. Much is said about the difficulty of remaining in the Anglican Communion, and the decision to "swim the Tiber" and unite with Rome. Nothing, to my knowledge, has ever been written about life at the hilltop itself, and the experience of knowing the Sisters, and what they would bring to Mother Church.
“It was a dark and stormy night...”
...in the spring of 1994. I was driving home from a meeting one evening. With the rain pouring down, I came upon a station wagon, which had run off into a ditch. There, with the hood up, were two sisters in full traditional habit. The former Catholic schoolboy donned the mantle of knighthood, as I swerved around and came to assist. It was a mother superior and her companion, from an order based in Baltimore. Fortunately, a motor club membership and a pay phone were enough to enlist the aid of a tow truck. In the interim, there remained the task of putting them at ease, and we talked of ourselves and our common Faith.
I heard from them shortly thereafter; a lovely card expressing their gratitude for “rescuing” them, and a book they published of spiritual reflections. It was only then that I learned, that the All Saints Sisters of the Poor were... an Episcopal order.
About the Sisters
The Oxford Movement swept the Church of England in the early 19th century, as some of its members rediscovered their Catholic heritage. This brought about within Anglicanism the revival of religious orders, long suppressed since the Reformation. Most Catholics know this movement by one of its leaders, the Venerable John Henry Newman (1801-90), who eventually converted to the Roman Catholic faith. But others stayed, hoping to reform the Anglican Communion from within. Among them were the Reverend Upton Richards, an Anglican priest who, with Mother Harriet Brownlow Byron, founded a society in 1851 to do parish work at All Saints Church on Margaret Street in London. In 1872, three of their sisters came to Baltimore and started an American branch.
The community lives under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, mixing a life of prayer and work. Wearing the full traditional Benedictine habit, their spirituality is based on an Augustinian Rule, inspired by the communities in France visited by Mother Harriet, and written by Father Richards. There are currently twelve sisters at the convent and retreat center in the town of Catonsville. Their day is marked by the Eucharist and the six-fold Daily Office. From this life emerges the ministry of hospitality, as well as the work of weekend retreats, spiritual guidance, and direction of a hospice in Baltimore’s inner city. Their retreats are marked by silence, often featuring the lives and works of such notable Catholics as Gregory the Great, Benedict of Nursia, and Catherine de Heuck Doherty.
As a part of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican Communion, their Mass is based upon the Missale Anglicanum -- essentially the Traditional Roman Mass in English. To hear the psalms chanted in the “king’s English” is a welcome respite from the pedestrian vernacular of our current official reform. Even in their recitation during the “little hours,” they are marked by the slow and measured cadence, beyond the mere poetic, but short of a dreary mantra.
Venturing to the Hilltop
Paul and I visited them later in the spring of that year. The gate at the end of the long neighborhood street opened up to a bucolic estate, with a retreat house and several other residences. At the end of the drive, atop the hill, was the English-style stone convent, looking undisturbed by the ravages of encroaching suburbia, save for the many deer that roamed the grounds as they would emerge from Patabsco State Park.
As the doors opened to greet us, there they were, nearly two dozen “penguins” in total -- hey, that's what they call themselves in their habits, I’m just sayin’ -- to see the man who “saved the lives” of the Reverend Mother and her charge. They loved Paul, who was quite precocious back in those days. We also met a Benedictine monk, a priest who had his own residence there. Dom Edward was a reminder that the Anglicans, too, had a share of the Benedictine tradition. It was at his residence, the priory there on the grounds, that I spent many an hour, conversing on scholarly things, in the manner of gentlemen like C S Lewis and J R R Tolkein.
Once a year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, Paul and I would attend the retreat house, for what amounted to an annual informal respite for those associated with the order. We attended Lauds and Vespers, as well as the Mass (without receiving communion). No one expected a young boy to be that well behaved, but he ate what the Sisters put in front of them, and always asked for seconds. When we attended the Office, one of the Sisters would slip me a note: “Reverend Mother will receive you in the sitting room in fifteen minutes.” When we weren't visiting with the Sisters, we would hike the grounds and sneak up on the deer, read books in the library, or play board games.
I also found that, whenever I went through a rough patch, and there were a couple of them for awhile, I could always find refuge there. I would stay at the priory and be alone in contemplation, attend the Eucharist and the Hours, or have tea with Father in the afternoon. I found a spiritual guide in the Reverend Mother, which was unusual. My experience with women Religious over the years had not generally been that positive, in no small part due to the changes that occurred in religious life in the 1960s and beyond. I cannot quite explain it all that well, except to say that, rather than my saving them, our acquaintanceship has been mostly about them saving MY life.
I will give you an example. I learned a fool-proof way to pray for a miracle. If you have a dispute with your brethren, you go to bed at night saying this prayer over and over; as you breathe in, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done...” then as you breathe out “...for me and (the name of the other person).” The next morning, the miracle is granted. It is not always the one you expect, and sometimes you have to look hard for it, but it is there, and it never fails. I found that the hard part was not so much getting the miracle, as it was getting up the nerve to ask for it. There is a lesson there about the spiritual life, you think?
Coming Together in Rome
It is easier to explain their reconciliation with Rome, than it is what these Sisters have meant to me. Their decision was not something entered into lightly, but was a journey that took many years, probably since before I met them. Of the twelve Sisters in the community, two intend to remain Anglican, if still faithful to their vows. That nearly all of them came together is remarkable, when you consider that it could just as easily have torn them apart. The preservation of their liturgical life would be a paramount concern, one that I expect was a major part of any negotiations.
The All Saints Sisters can be distinguished from many of the new “traditional” religious orders, in that they have the advantages that come from longevity. On the other hand, unlike some long-established orders, they have been spared much of the baggage that occurred in many Catholic orders during the 1960s and 1970s. This is not to say that they did not have struggles of their own, or they would never have left the Anglican Communion to begin with. It is perhaps in light of this, that they bring a new attitude about the celibate life. The best way to explain this is something the Reverend Mother once told me: “I used my sexual energy to build a hospice.” If you understand the true meaning of the celibate life, one that is beyond the mere forsaking of genital expression of human sexuality, it takes all this talk about the “theology of the body,” and shows us that Mother Church has possessed this knowledge all along.
Rome has been all the poorer without a genuine Anglican expression of the spiritual life in her midst. She will be all the richer for it now.
Another challenge facing them, is the depletion of their ranks, which is by nearly half in just the time I've known them. Most of this was through the passing of older Sisters into eternity. In any case, they are in dire need of vocations. Information about them can be found at a website set up by one of their associates: www.asspconvent.org.
My last visit to the Hilltop was three years ago. It was then that I learned that the Reverend Mother had retired, and that the Sisters had elected a new Mother Superior. The woman I knew as “Reverend Mother” eschewed the privilege of being addressed as “Mother” in favor of being known merely as “Sister.” She was unable to see me when I called on them, but one of the other Sisters told me of the... well, the change of management. It occurred to me, knowing the delicate balance that is the life of a religious community, that I should wait for at least a year before visiting again.
But one thing led to another, and one year became three. When I spoke to Sister on the phone, I was told that the event being held this day was closed to the public, including me. But I would like to think I was there in spirit. And I hope that young women from near and far will visit them, and discover what I did, each in their own way. If you are such a woman, and you feel called to be a mystical bride with Our Lord, do not miss the opportunity to visit the All Saints Sisters.
Tell them I sent you. It couldn’t hurt.