Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hey, did I buy all this candy for nothing?

"I Walked With A Zombie" is the title of a 1943 horror film directed by Jacques Tourneur and released by RKO. It is also the title of this uncharacteristically unimaginative tune by R.E.M.

It was raining earlier today, so there won't be much walking with zombies in Arlington County, at least not outside. Of course, the County website provides all kinds of possibilities for Halloween fun with the kiddies, all of which involves stuffing the little rug rats into the car and schlepping them to a library or a recreation center somewhere.

What's that? You've got a better idea? You mean like stepping out the door with your kids, and walking down the street begging for treats? What kind of deal is that? Sounds like too much fun. Sounds like very little inconvenience. Sounds like something we can't regulate the bejeezus out of.

I'll bet this is a lot more fun back in Milford.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Americana Pipe Dream

Thomas Peters, author of American Papist, is a rising young mainstay in the Catholic press and media, and a "go-to" guy with the cable news networks for all things Catholic. Nice work if you can get it. Anyway, he appears to have an issue (although I could be wrong about this) with a recent tee-shirt design being sold by Old Navy.

I have always had a vision of leading my own band. There would be four of us, the genre somewhere between indie-type "nerd rock" and Americana, with the occasional Afro-Celtic vibe. Maybe one day we'd be famous, and do a music video for a John Prine tune called "Take A Look At My Heart."

It would go like this. I'd be on the rebound from getting dumped by an old girlfriend, who suddenly appears at the bar where we're playing, accompanied by her latest meal ticket. The others in the band would see her too, and knowing that I was still on the mend, remind me of how the show must still go on. And this is the hit song we would do, with an eye in the direction of the lovely couple. The gal would do her usual baby-doll schtick, and the guy would be a little too eager to please. So I'd have a message for him in the bridge.

Do you think you can
    be her lover,
And not become her fool?
Do you think that you are
The exception to the rule?

And, to top it off, as the singer does the "hook" of the song “take a look at my heart” on voice-over, it would cut to a two-second clip of me opening my outer shirt to reveal an image of the Sacred Heart, with a sudden zoom to extreme close up. If only to keep the dream alive, this item of apparel would definitely fit the bill. Which is why I'm buying three tonight, one for each of the "family."

To provide the soundtrack for this bout of wishful thinking, is The Coda Band, which describes itself as a "country rock band based in Rome and Florence," which "comprises English, Italian, Irish, [and] American members."

You might say, it's an idea after my own heart.
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We realize you may want close up shop early today, so you can get the jump on some serious Halloween fun, but surely not before you take just twenty seconds, to witness a seasonal prank gone wrong.

A blessed All Hallow’s Eve from the staff and manamgement of mwbh for this week’s edition of the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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Murray's Malarkey

He was a sales rep for Procter and Gamble's soap division when I was a boy. Murray Malarkey (that really was his name) was a gregarious, cigar-smoking, back-slapping, laugh-out-loud, Irish-gift-of-gab kind of guy. He lived in Milford, Ohio, when I was growing up, and Dad had worked with him on one project or another. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, and was one of the bright spots in my childhood.

His own childhood was spent in that town as well. Now, the night before Halloween has always been known by various names throughout North America; Cabbage Night, Devil's Night, Gate Night, Goosey Night (huh???), Mischief Night -- the list goes on. But in our town, it was simply "Damage Night." People tipped over garbage cans, threw toilet paper in the trees of front yards, and used soap bars to draw silly faces on windows. It was all harmless stuff.

But to hear Mr Malarkey tell it, we had nothing on him. One night before Halloween, young Murray went to the public school in the middle of town, and ran several metal garbage cans up the flagpole. The school ended up calling the police the next morning, but he got away with it. And of course, the understanding was that, if you got caught by the property owner or another responsible adult, they could punish you pretty much as they saw fit. Such was not the case by the 1960s.

Mr Malarkey died several years ago, and the place of my youth lost one more remnant of its uniqueness. But I remember him well, as one of the truly unforgettable characters, in a small town which had its share of them.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Guitar Workshop: The Song Remains The Same

For this week's edition of Guitar Workshop, we're taking things in a different direction. Rather than discussing the highest common denominator in various genre, we're going to look at the lowest, or perhaps what one might call the simplest. Every now and then an artist complains that someone else has stolen their song, when it's more likely that they only stole the chord progression.

Imagine a scale of do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. Got it? Good. The chord rooted in the "do" is known as the "tonic" (roman numeral I), or the chord that sets the tone for the whole scale. That which is based on the "fa" is the "subdominant" (roman numeral IV), and the one based on the "so" is the "dominant" (roman numeral V). So on a natural C scale (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), the three primary major chords (I, IV, and V) would be C, F, and G. Oh, and roman numerals rendered in the lower case indicate the minor, not the major chord.

That's a rather crude explanation, but it's one that can be transposed to other scales, so it will serve us for now.

Our first two video clips deal with a curious phenomenon of the many pop songs in recent memory which consist of just four chords. They are: I, V, vi, IV. In the example provided by the Australian trio "Axis of Awesome" in the first clip, the chord progression appears to be E, B, C# minor, A. They demonstrate this phenomenon for the following:

You're beautiful by James Blunt,
Forever young by the Alphaville (covered by Youth Group),
I'm yours by Jason Mraz,
Amazing by Alex Lloyd,
Wherever you go by the Calling,
Can you feel the love tonight by Elton John,
She will be loved by Maroon 5,
Pictures of you by the Last Goodnight,
Cigarettes will kill you by Ben Lee,
With or without you by U2,
Fall at your feet by Crowded House,
Am I not pretty enough? by Kasey Chambers,
Let it be by The Beatles,
Under the bridge by RHCP,
Horses by Darryl Braithwaite,
Down under by Men at Work,
Waltzing Matilda,
Old Australia's funniest Homevideos intro,
Taylor by Jack Johnson,
2 become 1 by the Spice Girls,
Take on me by A-ha,
When I come around by Green Day,
Save tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry,
Africa by Toto,
If I Were A Boy by Beyonce,
Self Esteem by the Offspring,
Apologize by One Republic,
U + Ur Hand by Pink,
Pokerface by Lady Gaga,
Barbie Girl by Aqua,
Kids by MGMT, and finally,
Scar by Missy Higgins.

Still with me? Excellent!

Someone else known only as "mathyou9" took this a little farther in our second clip, and found as many as 65 songs which use this same chord progression. Over and over and over, for nine minutes.

Around the world is an army of hungry recording industry lawyers, just licking their chops at the thought of taking on the sort of imitators we have described here. But they should know that what we show here is not without historical precedent. A variation on the aforementioned phenomenon is the EIGHT-chord progression, as found in "Pachelbel's Canon in D" according to comedian/musician Rob Paravonian, the subject of our third clip.

As a musician, I've always regretted never having developed the knack for songwriting. After seeing this, I can't imagine what stopped me all these years.

Obviously, Led Zeppelin was right all along.

[FOOTNOTE: In music, the frequency of the standard pitch A above middle C on a piano is usually defined as 440 Hz, that is, 440 cycles per second. This is known as concert pitch, to which an orchestra tunes.]
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Screen Test

Is the news going "down the tubes" in your house?

Are you tired of getting your news from the same "Big Three" every evening, realizing that what you see and hear is just a powder-puff version of what's really going on? I know I am. That's why I've spent much of the year looking for a news video feed to place in the sidebar, one that is continually updated, and gives the reader the kind of news they can actually use.

The best candidate so far appears here.

TimesTube is produced by the Washington Times, and I've selected two options. The first (above right) has the advantage of being smaller, and clicking on any choice opens it up in a separate window. The advantage to this one, is that I don't have to widen the sidebar; I can use it as is. The second option (left) shows the image of the most recent video clip, which is the advantage in this case. But since the source only provides for a limited number of scalable options, I would to have to widen the sidebar to use it.

One possibility I'm considering, is to use the first option now, and reserve the second one for a redesigned weblog. Slated for rollout early next year, the enhanced site would appear much as the current one, only with sidebars on both the left and right of the main column. This would provide for better organization of content, and would acknowledge a growing audience of widescreen viewers.

We are looking to the internet for more and better choices in how we get our information, as it is clear that the "mainstream media" has gone in the tank for a particular world view, and cannot be trusted simply to tell the viewer what happened that day.

Check it out. Discuss. Get back to me. Whatever.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yes He Can!

I heard the news tonight, oh boy ...

Last week, the two daughters of the President were vaccinated for the prevention of the H1N1 ("swine flu") virus. Thousands of Americans have stood in line for hours, including pregnant women, children of tender years, health care workers, and others of high risk groups, many of whom end up being turned away because some bozo forgot to count. But the agent of Hope and Change got to move his kids to the head of the line.

If there is to be any Hope for "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" for a bit longer, information can be found at this website: flu.gov.

We provide this public service because we care. Yes, we can.

(You can too. To learn more about how a strain of influenza gets around, click on the illustration for a closer look. Image courtesy National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Health.)
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More Sidebar Stuff

As part of our continued effort to improve your reading experience and insatiable curiosity, we here at mwbh have added two new features to the sidebar. We can only show the images here, since their scripts do not function in the main column, so you'll have to make an effort to scroll down the page. It's not so bad.

One feature is in response to what this writer has to concede (if reluctantly), is the success borne from increased readership by those who follow "tweets." You know, those little messages from Twitter. Somebody got stinking rich knowing that there was a market for people with nothing to do all day, but send an endless stream of messages, each with 140 characters or less, to apprise the equally unfulfilled of their every waking move. Then there are the few, the proud, the elite among us, who use it judiciously, and only in the interest of alerting discriminating followers (and in our case, you both know who you are) to things one would hope are worthy of further review. Obviously I had to have a "button" specifically tailored to our unique branding concept. So we stole the one used by Ironic Catholic.

The other is an feed aggregator (this is to say, a news reader) devoted to The Chesterbelloc Mandate, devoted to a little-known social-economic school of thought known as "distributism." While hardly an expert on the subject, this writer has looked forward to learning more about this alternative to the excesses of both capitalism and socialism, inspired by the social encyclicals of the Popes, and the writings of both G K Chesterton (1874-1936) and Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953).

This was decided upon after we received an essay last night, from one of our regular correspondents, which was authored by Thomas Storck, also the author of The Catholic Milieu, from which a quotation appears as our "raison d'etre" at the top of the blue sidebar. The topic of some discussion on e-mail lists, is the matter of "Economic Science and Catholic Social Teaching," one that could not come at a better time. It is hoped that we can devote more to this subject here at mwbh.

But if it's all the same to you, this author prefers to know what he's talking about first. Go figure.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Where there’s a Will ...

Say what you will about the late President John Kennedy; he kept his sense of humor when it came to dealing with the press. On the other hand, syndicated columnist and frequent bow-tie wearer George Will decries the change in the present day, as he hits the Sunday morning talking-head circuit yesterday:

No president in the history of the Republic has less reason to complain about his treatment in the press than Barack Obama. Liberals have Academia, they have the mainstream media, they have Hollywood. They’re all for diversity in everything but thought.

And out here is this one channel, Fox, and they’re all up in arms because, in the words of Ms. Anita Dunn of the White House, it is “opinion journalism masquerading as news,” which some of us would say describes the New York Times and certainly MS-NBC.

Not to mention nearly the entire mainstream print and broadcast media. Note one comment in particular: “They’re all for diversity in everything but thought.” Americans can be diverted from watching Oprah long enough to assure themselves, that such Orwellian scenarios could never happen to them.

There may have been a time when they believed that in the UK. Not lately.

(VIDEO: H/T to Breitbart.tv.)
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Tea For Two

Dede Scozzafava is the Republican candidate to represent the New York 23rd Congressional District. She may as well be a Democrat on most issues. Such is how the "Grand Olde Party" continues to alienate its conservative base. This is why the Democratic candidate is hardly worth mentioning here. What IS worth mentioning, is that Doug Hoffman is running for the same seat, as the candidate of the Conservative Party. This writer recalls the Conservatives as a long-time third-party presence in New York, a state with its share of "country club Republicans." So, when former Alaska Governor and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin came out last week endorsing Hoffman, he had to be fitted for a new war chest overnight. And as anyone in Washington will tell you -- the right or wrong of it aside -- the candidate with the biggest purse gets the prize.

But what does former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich do? He takes the knee-jerk approach and endorses the Republican candidate. Thankfully, when Tea Party organizer Lisa Miller politely confronts him during a book-signing event, she asks him what's the buzz. In a lesson that could be learned by most pompous asses in Congress with their so-called "town meetings" on health care, he comes out from hiding behind good squads and stacked audiences bussed in from out of town, long enough to give an equally polite explanation. He makes perfect sense, until you realize what little benefit his approach has done so far, for that side of the political conversation which he claims to represent. (Hey, Newt, heard from Arlen Specter lately?)

We'll let the clips speak for themselves. We'll also notice how civility in politics is done, rather than resort to the worn-out stereotypes that certain people in high places have been parading on Sunday morning talk shows. Later this week, we'll show you certain people for what they really are when they merely TALK about civility. We've got some golden oldies in the vault that are sure to liven the conversation around the water cooler. Stay tuned.

(H/T to Ed Morrissey of Hot Air. More analysis from Doctor Zero. Meanwhile, John Halton writes via TweetDeck: "I'd like to see Hoffman win in NY-23, but if no, I'll settle for Scozzafava losing. Easier to replace the Dem in 2010.")

[THIS JUST IN: “A poll released today by the Club for Growth shows Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman surging into the lead in the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district to replace John McHugh, the former congressman who recently became Secretary of the Army.”]
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bless me, Father ... if it’s not too much to ask.

I drive to another part of town every Sunday to emcee a Traditional Mass. That aside, I don't ask much from a parish and its priests.

If you're a priest, and you're ever my pastor, here's the short list:

1) Celebrate Mass validly and licitly, with appropriate reverence,

2) Preach in keeping with the teaching of the Church, without error, and

3) Act your age.

As hard as it is to believe, the above is actually a tall order in some places.

My territorial parish (the one which I am normally obliged to register according to canon law, and where I have entitlement of access to the spiritual goods of the Church) is less than one mile from my house. I could walk to it. It's nothing fancy, which is fine with me. Give me a little church by the side of the road, where the faithful worship "in spirit and in truth" according to the mind of the Church. Throw in a good measure of "smells and bells" and I'm in hog heaven. But these yokels have a history of challenging certain aspects of the Faith at an institutional level. And while they do a great job with the corporal works of mercy (which I can get from the government after they leave my great-grandchildren in sufficient debt), the feeding of the soul leaves much to be desired. But I'm too lazy to make an issue of it. So is the diocese.

One evening, on a holyday of obligation, I went to Mass there. It was a weeknight, people were coming home from work. I'm in and out in forty minutes.

What could go wrong?

Well, the pastor shows up with his dog, and in front of everybody, starts yakking it up with them while putting on his vestments. Then he gets started with the Mass without fanfare, but with his dog for an acolyte. At first I was shocked by the animal being there, until it became clear that the dog behaved better than most of the people.

I left that evening, convinced that I was being unfair to the dog.

So tonight, I went there for confession. It had been a couple of months, and I had a load of laundry in the dryer. The sacrament was available down the street for a half hour before Mass began. Someone there pointed out a room in the vestibule for me. I sat down and waited. You know what I'm thinking.

What could go wrong?

The priest, an elderly man I had not seen before, showed up ten minutes late. The room in the back reserved for this purpose was also used for vesting. Someone could have walked in on us any minute. Well, I filled my part of the deal. Then he counsels me as I would expect. Nothing wrong so far. I make an act of contrition, then he starts with the formula based on the Penitential Rite of the ordinary form of the Roman Mass: "May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive your sins, and bring you to everlasting life." After that, he finally goes on script: "And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

There are three characteristics to a sacrament that must be proper for validity; form, manner, and intention. In this case, I left the church wondering if enough of the designated formula was used -- that is to say, the essential part -- for the sacrament to be valid. My suspicions are that "I absolve you ..." and the Trinitarian formula were sufficient. Still, why do I have to be left wondering?

While I was waiting for the ordeal to start, a woman who recognized me from the bus to work said hello. I mentioned that I didn't normally attend there. "It's a nice place to go to Mass," she said. Okay, if all I want is something "nice," I suppose she could be right. But I can get that on the "Mass for Shut-Ins" and never leave the house. And I don't have to worry about anything the dog leaves behind.

Obviously I'm asking too much, which is why I prefer not to use this venue to identify the parish.

That would be unfair to the dog.

[UPDATE: Personally, I would have settled for this.]
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“Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!”

Naturally, I'm referring to that perfect form of sacred worship which only exists in Heaven. (Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8) You knew that already, right?

Since that popular transcription of Father Franklyn McAfee's homily entitled “A Thing of Beauty” was released here two weeks ago, I know what my audience of dedicated readers -- both of you, in fact -- have been dying to ask me: "Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, when are you going to post more video clips of that totally awesome Solemn High Mass at the National Shrine, so we can see your equally awesome performance as Master of Ceremonies?" And I gotta say, hey, people, it's not as if my Close and Personal Friend John Schultz can pump out those YouTube clips like a Pez dispenser, okay?

And there's one more thing. My performance as an MC is not that noticeable, and there's a reason. Actually, there's two reasons. One is that the priest, deacon, and subdeacon all wear much cooler outfits. The other is that a good MC is not supposed to be noticed. In the proper tradition of Catholic worship (which most of you will never see at your home parish because Father Feelgood is too busy turning the Mass into a game show starring little old him, but never mind all that ...), even the priest is completely absorbed into the ritual, becoming subordinated to That Which Is The Object Of Our Worship.

We don't notice that when the priest faces the people from the altar. There is a disadvantage to this, one in which we are not oriented toward God, but toward each other. Literally. So even a nice "conservative" parish can be okay with people applauding each other for every little piss-ant thing that someone accomplishes in the life of that parish; a wedding, a baptism, a show-and-tell after communion about the youth group's summer work camp -- the list is endless, and all of it upstaging the Real Presence.

In our last episode, you were treated to a choral prelude and Introit, the Kyrie and Gloria, and a Vesper hymn. This time we have the Gradual and Alleluia, the Offertory, a stunning Offertory Motet devoted to Our Lady done by the Choir at the National Shrine, and the Agnus Dei.

Our perfect liturgy in Heaven; that's "the show that never ends." The Master beckons those of us who keep His commandments: "We're so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside."
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Friday, October 23, 2009

“This democracy ...”

“... only works with a free and unfettered press.”

Thomas Jefferson knew this when he stated a preference for newspapers without a government, as opposed to the other way around. There is no American citizen, regardless of political affiliation or personal taste in cable news networks, who should want it any other way. It astonishes yours truly to no end, that it has taken any segment of mainstream journalism this long to awaken to this absurdity. It is equally appalling, that so many Americans would acquiesce to this absurdity in high office up to now.

It is in such actions that tyranny begins its ascension. We have the last century alone to prove this. Our venerable Republic will fall as did Rome before her, if such behavior continues unchecked.

“Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34) God bless America. HOO-rah.
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John Prine is a really funny guy. He is more than a great songwriter, one who captures the Midwestern sensibility in an understated, if irreverent, sort of way. He also knows how to take a phrase that makes no sense at all in the context of the song, and make it fit for the sake of the rhyme, without appearing desperate or clumsy about it. If I could do that, I’d be doing what he’s doing, instead of doing what I’m doing now while talking about what he’s doing.

In this clip from the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, Tennessee, he reminisces about his old colleague, the late Steve Goodman, and performs “Souvenirs” for this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

POSTSCRIPT: For our Bonus Whimsy, we show how “Stormtroopers aren’t fighting in battles every single day like you see in the Star Wars films. Here’s what they do when they have some free time.” Click here. H/T to Jessica Eballar.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Favorite Chesterton Quote

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

- G K Chesterton

At least now I don’t have to keep looking it up. H/T to Deborah Morlani.
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Return to Life As We Know It

ahaha.gifI will spend most of today at the office figuring out where I left off when I -- well, left.

My career as a graphic designer is changing. I'm now becoming a multimedia designer, or something. The emerging division of my time between print and interactive media in my office seems to reflect that. I am definitely not complaining.

If you're anything like me, you like a good vacation as much as anyone, but look to the return home with mixed feelings. You wish you could stay just one more day, in case you might miss something that you usually miss all the time. There is always one more old school chum, one more event in the city, one more thrift store -- hey, that's just me, right? -- to visit.

Then again, there is a relief upon walking in the door, knowing that no one broke in and stole anything. Except for the mail lying on the floor, everything is where you left it. But there's no Sunday paper, and it's already Tuesday evening and the stores have already turned them back in. There's also the bills you took care of online, and a couple of surprises that have to be taken care of ... well, ideally while you were out. Such is when the reality sets in. Not only can you go home again; sooner or later, you'd better. The other things set the stage for reality, too. In my case, it includes several calls a day on the land line, from people who just hang up. (That happened at my last number as well. I don't get it.)

My sister wouldn't vouch for this after watching me check my inbox throughout the day while I was there, but I've missed a few big developments in "the Catholic blogosphere." Sure, there were other people to cover these things, people who don't appear to have a office job, or any job, or otherwise seem to have a lot of time on their hands. That's when I get the following in my inbox from a maternal aunt ...

On Monday of this week our youngest grandson Jack age 5 became ill with a fever. It has now been confirmed that he has the H1N1 virus. As of yesterday, his sister Jenna age 3 also has become sick. Due to the fact that Jack had a heart operation a few years ago, his condition is even more serious. On their behalf I am asking for your prayers that they can both overcome this illness.

... and I know the news that really matters. And I'm thankful to have a job which takes up my time, and pays me almost well enough.

Now then, where was I?
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oh, Hi Again, Ohio!

Okay, I'll admit it. I expected to have a perfectly lousy time, especially at the wedding (given my eternal pledge never to attend them, or funerals, alone). But the whole trip turned out rather well, including the wedding -- at least until the dancing started.

Paul has developed a taste for Cincinnati's special culinary delights, namely Skyline Chili, and White Castle hamburgers. I made sure he got his fill of both, as well as a dozen cans of the unique "Cincinnati-style" chili formula to bring home. Paul spent two nights at the ultra-swank, art-deco-inspired Netherland Plaza Hotel downtown, since they had a special rate for the wedding guests. I stayed with my sister up in West Chester. I have no complaints.

The wedding was at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky, on Saturday afternoon. The rehearsal was the night before. Sal called from the Philippines during the rehearsal. Since I never know when she's going to call, I took it outside. It's not like I had anything to do, right? At least not yet. Then we went to the rehearsal dinner, at an old police station known as "The Precinct." My brother came up to me and, undoubtedly in a concession to my superior skills at public speaking, asked me to do a "short and sweet" invocation before the meal. To my surprise, the bride and groom asked me for an encore at the wedding feast. I was flattered. For the latter occasion, I added something in the middle (sort of like the "director's cut" released after the original, right?) but here it is:

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God,
    King of the Universe,
        who bringeth forth bread from the earth.
Who through Thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ,
    did grace the wedding feast at Cana,
        and so blessed the marriage there.

Pour forth Thy blessing
    upon those gathered here this day,
and especially upon the union
    of Thy servant, Mark,
        and Thy handmaiden, Lauren,
that together they may see
    the prosperity of Jerusalem,
        all the days of their lives.

Bless also these gifts
    which we are about to receive
        from Thy bounty,
            through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

And to think I just made it up on the spot -- well, sort of. It was inspired by a Jewish berakah or prayer of blessing, an Eastern Orthodox wedding prayer, the 127th (128th?) Psalm, and the Roman Catholic table grace. When you read too much, this is what happens to you. But regardless of what happens to me, the parents of the bride were most gracious, truly a class act, and I wish the new couple well as they start their new life.

I had lost fifteen pounds in the previous six weeks. In the week of my vacation, I gained back about three. The good news is, it worked out great that the dancing started late, since my esteemed dance partner was not there to upstage the bridal party. Oh yes. We would prevail. (Sigh!)

Come Sunday morning, I had the honor of being "in choir" for the Traditional High Mass at All Saints Church in Walton, Kentucky. Theirs is an example of the revival of traditional church architecture, and a kindly old but quite lively Franciscan drives in from Lexington (just over an hour's drive) to celebrate the "Old Mass" for adherents on both sides of the Ohio River. I was invited to stay for a repast afterwords, but had to decline so I could take my son to the airport. I did my fair share of driving that day.

It just so happened that later that day, that the local historical society in the town where I grew up, was having a once-every-two-or-three-years historic homes tour. Milford has a number of beautiful residences, in the Italianate and Victorian styles, particularly in the Old South neighborhood (such as the gem shown to the left, originally the residence of a Leiutenant Colonel Greeno, who fought with distinction in the Civil War). Some of the homes date back over two centuries, like the "Arrowhead Farm" which has long been owned by the Gatch family, who are among the town's original settlers. It once had an oak tree that was at least 750 years old before lightning struck it down. It was also where you could find arrowheads in the ground if you looked hard enough (as I did when I was a boy in the surrounding crop land). I met people I had not seen in over thirty years, so it was a nice reunion, reminiscing about stories we had heard in our younger days, and folks inquiring about Mom and Dad.

Monday was spent doing laundry, and preparing to return home. I spent the evening with a book discussion group, held at the residence of fellow Saint Blog's parishioner Rich Leonardi, author of Ten Reasons: the observations of a seditious catechist. He posted a story earlier this week which calls for a response of sorts, but it will have to wait.

I arrived home 24 hours ago, and I'm still not finished packing. Oy vey...
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

After The 13th

Last night saw the premiere of a new movie "The 13th Day" about the miracle of the sun near the once-little town of Fatima in Portugal. I had the opportunity to go, but the demands of work, in the face of preparing to leave for Ohio, got in the way. The story of the three shepherd children continues to fascinate both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, not only for the supernatural phenomena attributed to the event, which was witnessed by thousands, but for its glimpse into the state of world crisis in the century that would follow.

On a sad note, tonight and for many nights to come, Italian-American social clubs along the Jersey coastline and beyond, are mourning yesterday's death of Al Martino. In the words of Allmusic journalist Steve Huey: "Martino was one of the great Italian American pop crooners, boasting a string of hit singles and albums that stretched from the early 1950s all the way into the mid 1970s. However, he was perhaps even better known for his role in The Godfather as singer Johnny Fontane, a character supposedly based on Frank Sinatra, but with eerie similarities to Martino's own career."

We include a clip from a performance of his signature hit, dating from the 1970s. Despite a decade of wide lapels and bad haircuts, it doesn't matter. The song remains the same.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta pack.

(POSTSCRIPT: This writer is on the road and on hiatus, from this date until at least the following Monday. Be sure to check back early in the week, as mwbh reports on his travels, and comments briefly on a few things he was too busy to catch on the internet or the cable news channels. Things like ... well, you know.)
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Hello, Columbus!

Did you know that the Knights of Columbus, the fraternal order of Catholic men, known for great works of charity and generosity to the Church and to humanity without being rich or influential enough for genuine papal knighthood, had a major role in Columbus Day becoming a national holiday? Oh yes, it's true. This and many other fun facts can be found, courtesy of our Pertinacious Papist, by clicking here.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this writer is a Knight of the Third Degree, and has been for most of his adult life, a proud member of Father Sourd Council Number 2423, Fayetteville, Ohio, of which his maternal grandfather, the late Walter James Rosselot, was a founding member.)
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The “Sound” of Music

Tonight, I received word that “Wierd Al” Yankovic is working on his next hit song, and is giving his millions of fans a sneak preview. To find out what it will look like, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Endeavors

By now, everyone who doesn't live in a cave is aware that the President has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Were that not remarkable enough, he was actually nominated during his first month in office, presumably before he learned to find the men's room in the West Wing without an escort. Even those in the mainstream media forgot about the tingle in their collective leg, long enough to be astonished at the news, if less for the choice than for the timing.

In all fairness, the President has assured us that ...

This award — and the call to action that comes with it — does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace.

As if to give him the benefit of the doubt, Right Wing Sparkle has compiled a list of recommendations, chosen from among the also-rans who had the audacity to accomplish more than hope.

The President has also pledged to donate the entire amount of over one million dollars to charity. Ethical guidelines for Federal officials give him little choice.

Meanwhile, in the wake of this announcement, a grassroots movement is underway to nominate the President as a write-in candidate for the Heisman Trophy. When you think about it, the latter is no less plausible than the former. Remember to vote early and (as is a time-honored practice in Cook County, Illinois) often.
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A Thing of Beauty

(The following is a homily of the Reverend Father Franklyn Martin McAfee, D.D., Pastor Emeritus of the Church of Saint John the Beloved, McLean, Virginia. It was delivered at the Solemn High Mass on the 26th of September, 2009, in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in conjunction with the 2009 CMAA Gregorian Chant Pilgrimage. -- DLA)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever
    Its loveliness increases;
        It will never pass into nothingness;

-- John Keats


When the envoys of Vladimir, Prince of Kiev returned from attending the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, in Constantinople in the late tenth century, they gave this report; “we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere on earth. We cannot describe it to you; only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget the beauty”!

President John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail, told of a visit to a “Romish Chapel”, it said it part; “The music was consisting of an organ and a choir of singers, went all the Afternoon, excepting sermon Time, and the Assembly chanted-most sweetly and exquisitely. Here is every thing which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell”.

St. Teresa of Avilla declared, “I am always shaken by the grandeur of the ceremonies of the Church. The love of beauty and its expression…for the work of art is not itself beauty but its expression is homage to God because, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, “beauty is one of the names of God”. Thus the church, when she is summoned to celebrate the Divine Mystery, utilizes all of the arts appealing to the senses because the beautiful is “id quod visum placet” ‘vision of which’ when beheld is pleasing. The soberness of the chant, the splendor of the instruments, the festivity of the vestments, the pageantry of the incense, the candles, the vessels, the holy water – all of these aid us in our worship of the Triune God who created beauty, sustains beauty, redeemed beauty and is Beauty itself.

The Church has traditionally clothed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with mystery. Using the goods of creation, the Church in her transcendent earthiness leads her children to God and God through the same means descends to them. The Church at times has forgotten this. Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) lamented, “Since the (Second) Vatican Council the Church has turned its back on beauty.” Just a few years ago the Pontifical council of culture in Rome issued this plea “give beauty back to ecclesiastical buildings, give beauty back to the liturgical objects”! Not only has the Church turned her back on beauty, she seems to be embarrassed by it. She who was once the patroness of the arts.

We have been impoverished. We are, to use a phrase of Paul Claudel’s, “we live in an age of starved imagination”. According to the philosopher Plotinus “the soul must climb the ladder of the beautiful before it can encounter the vision of First Beauty. But what happens when they remove the rungs of the ladder?

Scientists tell us that the left side of the brain specializes in mathematics, analysis, science and so on. It is the right side of the brain is incurably romantic its province is poetry, love, art, music. It is the right side of the brain that is called into play by a high form of Liturgy. One author has said, “During a more de-ritualized example of the vernacular Mass the right brain, that miniature Homer or Shakespeare in all of us, is smothered to death”.

H. L. Menken who wrote for a Baltimore paper, and was no friend of religion, found himself admiring the Catholic Church as he said in 1923; "The Latin Church, which I constantly find myself admiring, despite its frequent astounding imbecilities, has always kept clearly before it the fact that religion is not a syllogism, but a poem.... Rome, indeed, has not only preserved the original poetry of Christianity; it has also made capital additions to that poetry - for example, the poetry of the saints, of Mary, of the liturgy itself." "A solemn High Mass," he concluded, "must be a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big-top... in the face of such overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.”

Listen to the enemies of the Church. They tremble at every swing of incense and each and every genuflection. In 1888 a Seventh Day Adventist published a book about the Whore of Babylon. When Judge Clarence Thomas was named to the Supreme Court the book was reissued. Here the author remarks about Catholic Worship…remember this was in the 19th century. “Many Protestants suppose that the Catholic religion is unattractive and that its worship is a dull, meaningless round of ceremony. Here they mistake. While Romanism is based upon deception, it is not a coarse and clumsy imposture. The religious service of the Roman Church is a most impressive ceremonial. Its gorgeous display and solemn rites fascinate the senses of the people and silence the voice of reason and of conscience. The eye is charmed. Magnificent churches, imposing processions, golden altars, jeweled shrines, choice paintings, and exquisite sculpture appeal to the love of beauty. The ear also is captivated. The music is unsurpassed. The rich notes of the deep-toned organ, blending with the melody of many voices as it swells through the lofty domes and pillared aisles of her grand cathedrals, cannot fail to impress the mind with awe and reverence. The pomp and ceremony of the Catholic Worship has the seductive, bewitching power by which many are deceived; and they come to look upon the Roman Church as the very gate of Heaven.”

In this way, many hearts hardened to the Church and her teachings, have been melted; as was the case of the “decadents”, who were Baudelaire, Verlaine, Aubrey, Oscar Wilde and others. “Beauty can then be fittingly called evangelical, evangelical beauty, via pulchritudinis, can open the pathway for the search for God and “dispose the heart and spirit to meet Christ who is the beauty of Holiness Incarnate offered by God to man for their salvation.”

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, for something to be considered beautiful it must have three qualities, integrity, harmony, clarity or radiance. When the radiance breaks through and the teachings of the Church are made manifest and the Catholic Church is recognized as the place where the truth abides and the home of beauty. This was the case with the decadents. Urs von Balthasar has written, that when “the good has lost its power of attraction, when proofs have lost their conclusive character; then the beautiful will empower”.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his telling of the visit of the delegates of Prince Vladimir of Kiev to Constantinople said that the delegation and the prince accepted the truth of Christianity not by the cogency of its theological augmentations but by the beauty of the mystery of its Liturgy.

The poet Baudelaire, one of the decadents wrote; “It is at once through poetry and across poetry, through and across music, that the soul glimpses the splendor situated beyond the grave; and when an exquisite poem brings tears to the eyes these tears are not proof of excessive joy. They are the testimony of an irritated melancholy, a demand of the nerves, of a nature exiled in the imperfect, and now desiring to take possession of his world.”

Baudelaire was significantly influenced on his idea of beauty by an American writer he much admired, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe states of beauty: “We still have a thirst unquenchable, the thirst belonging to the immortality of man. He is at once a consequence and an indication of this perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the stars. It is no mere appreciation of the beauty before us, but veiled effort to reach the beauty above.”

Why then must the Liturgy be beautiful? Because beauty provides a vehicle to transcend our present lives and to touch the skirts of heaven. When we encounter finite beauty there is engendered a more passionate longing for absolute immortal beauty of which the earthly, temporal, beauty is but an ephemeral epiphany.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ is called the leiturgos, the Liturgist who presides over all our rituals, who Himself offers the Liturgy. Since Christ is the leiturgos and Christ is Beauty Incarnate, all beauty must reflect him and all beauty must flow from Him in the Liturgy.

Christ the Word Made Flesh is the greatest masterpiece. Christ is the most perfect symphony. Christ is the loveliest painting. Christ is the cosmic beat in the everlasting poem.

St. John of the Cross said; “God passes through the thickets of the world and wherever His glance falls, he turns all things to beauty”.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy; “He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He does possess immortality dwelling in unapproachable light”. Yet in the Divine Liturgy of the Mass we make bold to approach Him who lives in unapproachable light.

How can I describe the Liturgy? I can describe the Liturgy with one word. In the courts of heaven, amid the chorus of angels, there is but one word spoken, one solitary word which the cherubim and seraphim utter before the majesty of the cosmic liturgy of the glorified Lamb once slain but now risen, and that word is ...

That simple word ...

    That glorious word ...

            That triumphant word is ...

                AAAAAH!

(CREDITS: Photos by Miss Sarah Campbell, from the Solemn High Mass for Palm Sunday 2009, at the Church of St John the Beloved, McLean, Virginia. Video clips of the Solemn High Mass at the National Shrine produced and directed by John Schultz of NetStrategies.)
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Friday, October 09, 2009

Remember when we talked about call waiting? There is more where that came from.

Sal's ringtone plays Carlos Santana's rendition of "Oye Como Va," which is a vast improvement over her previous choice by Barry White. My ringtone plays "beep." That's it. Just "beep." And more often than not, I leave it on the vibrate setting. Why does the whole world need to know I've got a call coming in on my cell phone? When people do call, of course, they hear some music while the party (that would be me) is being reached. As this is written, that would be an excerpt from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto (Number Three, if I'm not mistaken).

Maybe I should play this instead. Weird Al Yankovic's latest spoof has been personally endorsed by the spoofee, Brian May of Queen. We've got it here for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Guitar Workshop: I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)

I was in a Five Guys Restaurant this morning, ordering a burger, when I heard it piped in on the speakers. That's when I realized the awful truth: we haven't done a Guitar Workshop in a while, have we?

"I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)" was written by Sonny Curtis in 1959. He recorded it with The Crickets that year, taking the place of Buddy Holly (as if anyone could, right?) after the latter's unfortunate demise earlier that year. But the most famous rendition came at the end of 1965, when the Bobby Fuller Four recorded it, and performed it on nationwide television, as seen here. (I know, I know, don't forget the version by The Clash in 1979. Whatever.) Notice the rhythm guitar break in the first clip. Any flattop flogger can play chords and call himself a "rhythm guitarist." It's the ones who can work the whole fingerboard who make the grade.

Watch this next clip for a closer view of the action, provided by Sam of the My Twangy Guitar Channel on YouTube. Notice in both examples, the change from the F barre chord to the D barre chord and so on, as he works his way up the neck. Our boy Sam could have used that trick to play the background part for sure, as we see Bobby doing, but he does manage to put in a little tremolo bar on his Gretsch archtop for a special touch. If you're a player of intermediate ability, you can try some of that too.

The result is enough to get by with only a guitar/bass/drums trio. After all, you gotta use what you got, so give it a shot.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

One Minute Theatre: 28 Days Later

As midday Wednesday rolls around, I know what you must be thinking: “Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, how come you don't show any zombie flicks?” Well, for one thing, they don't have happy endings, because the protagonists in the story are usually too stupid to know what's going to happen next. Nevertheless, I've decided to relent for the sake of this week's edition of “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh. The folks at at the University of York Filmmaking Society, who brought you “One Minute Theatre: Kill Bill (Parts One and Two),” now present their version of the movie “28 Days Later.”

It only takes a minute. What could possibly go wrong?
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Lepanto





White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.

Love-light of Spain -- hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.

Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces -- four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria s going to the war.)

Sudden and still -- hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,

Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed--
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.

Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign --
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

-- G K Chesterton (1874-1936)

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Today, the western Church traditionally celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, in thanksgiving for her intercession on behalf of the naval forces of Christian nations, flying under the banner of the Holy See, and winning victory over the Ottoman Turks, on this day in 1571. Thus the contest has rightfully been hailed as "the battle that saved Christendom." Inasmuch as the month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary, this writer hopes to offer occasional reflections on this devotion, over the course of said month.
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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

paul@twentyfour

It was a Saturday night early in October of 1985. We attended Mass that evening, as we anticipated the inevitable. Shortly after midnight, it began. And after seventeen hours in labor, a mother gave birth to a little boy.

Before that day, he was simply known as "Tad," which was short for "tadpole," a nickname given to this writer as a wee lad by an uncle. It was also sufficiently gender-neutral. Upon arrival, the baby was named for both of his grandfathers, and in the Slavic tradition of his mother, his middle name was the first name of his father. Thus was Paul David Alexander brought into the world.

His cultural upbringing was eclectic, to say the least. He was greeted at birth to a tape recording of the Meditation from the opera "Thais" by the French composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912). At eighteen months, he could identify eighteen makes of cars. By the time he was three, when he wasn't out climbing trees, his three favorite TV shows were Looney Tunes, Inspector Gadget, and Jeopardy. He loved to dance to Paul Simon's "Graceland" album. His first musical instrument was the harmonica, which he blew in and out in near-perfect timing, while his Uncle Paul played an eight-bar rockabilly classic on guitar.

I got a beat-up car, a new pair of shoes.
How can I lose with the stuff I use?
I'm a rockin' daddy.
Yeah a rockin' daddy.
I'm a rockin' daddy from Ding Dong, Tennessee.

(Original lyrics by Sonny Fisher, and recorded by Eddie Bond at Sun Records.)

On Friday nights, Mom got some relief when Dad took him along to the weekly contra dance. While Dad played banjo with the band, Paul found a place to lay his head on a blanket and pillow in the corner. He could sleep anywhere (and still can). At nine or ten years old, Paul was learning the violin. The culmination of that experience, other than the school recital, was on Christmas Day, when a truly original presentation of an Israeli folk tune, "Zing Gully Gully" was executed for the listening audience in Ohio, with his Dad accompanying him on banjo.

The two of us fell in love with a Toronto-based indie-rock band, Moxy Früvous, which had a notable cult following among recovering nerds in the 1990s. We would be there for them whenever they appeared in the area. I tried to get him in for a sound check once, and the band was delayed. But though his first meeting with them fell through, he eventually made two stage appearances with the band, who gave him the first of many stage names: "Virtual Boy."

His latest moniker is "Fender Splendor," the name under which he appeared as a finalist in this year's US Air Guitar National Championships. He placed sixth. But our hero is not content to rest on his laurels, even after reaching such heights as appearing on "B roll" for NBC's Today show. I was at home last night, when there began a conversation, which between TweetDeck and text messaging, went something like this:

P: the fine folks at jammin java reserved us front row seats for @AndrewWK!

D: yeah i checked this guy out, including a youtube interview. that boy ain't right. http://bit.ly/1iJWFh

P: he's actually a classically trained pianist and a musical genius, and he's playing right now with the calder string quartet. awesome.

D: i saw the website with the string quartet. also played samplers from gundam rock. he's prolific i'll admit ... i seem to recall carlos santana doing some work with tchaikovsky in the early 70s.

P: did i mention he's also a motivational speaker and he tours colleges around the country giving lectures? a gentleman and a rockstar!

D: does he look like he does on the twitter page with a bloody nose and all when he's a motivational speaker? why don't you ask him that when you use your backstage pass, playuh?

P: umm probably not. that's the cover of his debut album, it's a really famous picture. guess who has a tshirt with a massive picture of it now? don't think i'll need a backstage pass! pretty sure he'll be hanging out with US after the show.

(at this point, i thought he was just shooting off his virtual mouth. then i got this message during the night...)

P: i just got onstage and rang in my 24th birthday singing 'i love nyc' with @AndrewWK on the ivories! thanks for an awesome birthday! PARTY HARD!

(oh, and it gets better...)

P: i love...washington dc...oh yeah...washington dc!!! holy crap. best @#$%ing night ever.

Maybe he'll stay in DC after all, and I can have at least one family member around. In any case, Paul turns 24 years old at exactly 5:17 this afternoon. I'll be catching a bus about that time, so I wanted to get this out of the way.

Party on, tadpole.

(NOTA BENE: The first video clip was updated when the actual song, rather than a variation, was finally located. The fourth clip features Andrew WK performing "Party Hard" with the Calder Quartet at Coolidge Corner Theatre on the 29th of September last. Mild content advisory, sort of.)
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Friday, October 02, 2009

“The worst play in football history.” That’s what Allahpundit of Hot Air calls it. The real egg-laying occurs at 1:40 into the clip.

Personally, I’ve seen worse. During my freshman year of high school, our varsity football team not only lost every game; they shut out of every game. In other words, zero points every time, got it? The most common offensive play appeared to be when the opposition piled onto the center just when the ball was snapped. At some point, we must have known that this wouldn’t get us anywhere. Then that same year, the varsity basketball team finished with an 0-18 record. Believe it or not, this actually got our school a mention in Sports Illustrated.

So now that football weather is here, we can look forward to more fun stuff on YouTube, and so it begins for this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

For our Bonus Whimsy, we take you now to Copenhagen, where it has just been announced that Chicago will NOT host the 2016 Olympics. It seems that the CNN reporter is beside himself at the inability of pure charisma, and the media hype that follows it, to successfully manipulate world events. Were that not enough, certain White House officials cannot resist the opportunity to say something stupid. Oh well, Rio de Janeiro won the bid for the Games.

Oprah’s not gonna like this.
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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Consider the Oaks of the Forest

Consider the oaks of our countryside, how crooked they are; they thrust their branches to right and left, nothing checks them so they never reach a great height.

On the other hand, consider the oaks of the forest, which are hemmed in on all sides, they see light only up above, so their trunk is free of all those shapeless branches which rob it of the sap needed to lift it aloft. It sees only heaven, so all its strength is turned in that direction, and soon it attains a prodigious height.

In the religious life the soul like the young oak is hemmed in on all sides by its rule. All its movements are hampered, interfered with by the other trees ... But it has light when it looks toward heaven, there alone it can rest its gaze, never upon anything below, it need not be afraid of rising too high.

-- letter from Saint Therese to Leonie, 1893
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