Friday, September 30, 2011

FAMW: Return to (Ohio via) Heathrow Airport

[From November of 2010. -- DLA]

Nine days ago, passengers arriving at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, outside of London in the UK, were greeted in the manner demonstrated here. That's right, kids. T-Mobile is at it again. If they did this in the USA, it would almost make up for certain new security features implemented by the TSA.

Let's look at that playlist, shall we (with H/T to LadyJferyou)?

0:11 - 0:36:
Etta James, "At Last"
0:37 - 0:55:
Mel Torme, "Comin' Home Baby"
0:56 - 1:18:
Mark Morrison, "Return of the Mack"
1:19 - 1:39:
Iggy Pop, "The Passenger"
1:40 - 1:53:
Thin Lizzy, "The Boys are Back"
1:54 - 2:05:
Kaiser Chiefs, "Oh My God"
2:06 - 2:26:
George Michael with Aretha Franklin, "I Knew You Were Waiting"
2:27 - 3:03:
Peters and Lee, "Welcome Home"

We should all really do this more often. Then we wouldn't NEED a pat-down for that holiday trip to Grandma's. Something to think about for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

+    +    +

The above is from last November, and it came to mind while I was packing today, for the trip to Ohio tomorrow morning. There will be more to say about that later, but for now there are bills to pay, laundry and errands to be done, and other preparations to make. “Welcome home, welcome! Come on in and close the door ...”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Obligatory Well-Timed “@urFRENZ” Trailer and Synopsis

When depressed and withdrawn Catharine meets a secretive boy online, she begins to come out of her shell. But is he a suitor or a stalker, a friend or foe? The mystery of his existence fuels obsession, denial and deceit, sending her to the point of no return. In the midst of cliques, boyfriends, and digital drama, Catharine is trying to make sense of a world of uncertain identities. The film was inspired by the writer-director's own experience parenting his teenage daughter in the world of cyberspace. “@urFRENZ” was made to serve as a talking point for the subject matter of bullying and cyberbullying, the number one hot button issue between parents and teens today.

(The above was written by the distributors of the film, and is reproduced here, without permission or shame, as a public service to those in the cybersphere who either do (or do not) need to be reminded of a certain state of affairs -- and both you and you know who you are. -- DLA)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“Ketiva ve-chatima tovah!”

I used to watch them on Saturday mornings from my apartment in Georgetown; families dressed in their finery, walking patiently and proudly to Kesher Israel Synagogue for observance of the Sabbath. They shunned modern transportation, and would truly rest from their labors for the remainder of the day. “If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor 15:14) If by some remote chance such were proven to be true, I would rather be Jewish. Thankfully, my Catholic faith is the fulfillment of Judaism. Still, I admire them from a distance. A man sits on the Metro with his daughter, reading his newspaper, his carrying bag for his tallit (prayer shawl) and yarmulke (skullcap) on his lap.

Tonight begins the "Days of Awe" or "High Holidays" in the Jewish year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. You can read all about it at the Australian Jewish blog Oz Torah, or this piece at It is commonly thought of as the "Jewish new year," and history has even known greeting cards to that effect. But in fact it is much more than that, as our Jewish brethren will attest. Meanwhile, we have a unique greeting card for our Jewish friends. And we wish them well.

“May you be written and sealed for a good year!”

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Duhks “You Don’t See It”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The Duhks are a Canadian band known for their outside-the-box approach to American roots music. In this clip, they perform "You Don't See It" at WNRN in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 20, 2009 before their show at Gravity Lounge. The song appears on their album "Fast Paced World."

Raising Cain with Politico

A while back, Politico turned its attention to Herman Cain, perhaps in anticipation that whoever was currently playing second to Romney in the latest East Coast Country Club Poll would find a way to blow it sooner or later. And when it did, they had this clip at the ready. He can rest assured that his national security advisors will sit down with him in the first 72 hours after his election, whether he asks for them or not. Welcome to the fast lane, big fella!

Meanwhile, in the Lone Star State, the political meltdown of Rick Perry continues in earnest.

That's Earnest, Texas, population 129 (slightly higher during quail huntin' season).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Put The “Social” In Social Networking?

To answer that question, we submit the following for your consideration.

Rachel Torres is a conservative Jersey girl who loves politics, movies, music, popular culture, and being Catholic. She is also a small business owner. And from what one can surmise following the chatter on Twitter -- okay, I had a repast for about an hour or so, it was a tough morning -- she may be accusing someone of stalking her. No, not like someone actually following her physically, but sending her messages via Twitter, or Facebook, or some other means, which are unwelcome. Or something.

You think that there is one issue at hand, and that it is what has caused this whole mess, but that’s not true. That’s the first thing that’s a lie. It is being claimed that I started calling someone a stalker after he commented on a Facebook event, that I planned to attend, taking place in New Jersey, when he lives somewhere in Texas. As far as I am concerned, he had no business commenting ...

Now, enter the other party in all this. Remember Kevin Eder from last July?

As it happens, the whiz kid who handles social media for the White House forgot that it works both ways. According to Ed Morrissey of, nearly one-sixth of the questions fielded, including some of the most challenging, came from an unassuming young man in a monkey hat, with a huge and heretofore unexplained following in -- Thailand?

It appears that one or both parties is attempting to smooth things over, with others chiming in. (You have to follow @keder to find out, if you care.) I do not know all the ins and outs. I do not know who is guilty or innocent. And I do not wish to judge either the young lady or the young man in question. There is, on one hand, my praise for the role that Kevin has played in advancing the political conversation through the new media. There is, on the other hand, the special place in the heart of yours truly for Jersey girls everywhere (Sofia Guerra, Michelle Malkin, that gal I met at the ATM one Saturday last winter ... but, I digress).

But it is possible, just possible, that with a certain age group, this form of communication can become a substitute for genuine building of relationships, to the point where a false sense of familiarity, even intimacy, can occur. We assume certain dynamics have evolved in this virtual public arena, which may have in fact only developed in our imaginations. Then, in the blink of an eye, reality sets in with one party or the other, and then the trouble begins. It may explain either Kevin's presumption, if any, or Rachel's overreaction, if any. But there may be a lesson here for both of them, not to mention the rest of us who use such media.

And if either of them has to ask what that is, I cannot begin to explain it to them, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Guided Missal 1: Prelude

“Lex Orandi,
    Lex Credendi,
        Lex Vivendi.”

The expression is attributed to Saint Prosper of Aquitaine, a fifth-century Christian writer and disciple of Saint Augustine. Closer to the present, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “[t]he Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles - whence the ancient saying ... The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.” (1124)

“The law of praying, the law of believing, the law of living.” As we pray, so we believe, and so we live.

Even in the earliest centuries of the Church, spontaneity in the texts of worship soon gave way to an established formula, as it became apparent after the death of the last Apostle, that errors in teaching could unduly influence the members of Christ's faithful. There is intended to be an understanding among all Catholics, wherever in the world they may be, that there is a common language, a common understanding. The decree of the Second Vatican Council regarding the sacred liturgy, allowing the translation of official texts for use in the vernacular, may have made this a more complex undertaking, but it did not change the need for a common language. Thus the official books of worship in the Roman liturgy have always been in a standard tongue; in the Greek early on, and in Latin soon thereafter and thus for most of the Church's history.

They still are in the present day. The words that we hear at Mass in English are an official translation of an original and authoritative Latin text, the Missale Romanum one that is the basis for all translations around the world. It is assumed that those translations would be faithful to the original. And yet, over the last four decades, this has been found to be wanting, in some places more than others.

In the summer of last year, Catholics of the Roman Rite throughout the English-speaking world, learned of a new official translation of the Roman Mass, one that was approved by the Apostolic See, and was to come into use beginning with the First Sunday of Advent in the year of Our Lord 2011. What will happen late in November is the culmination of nearly three decades of study, preparation, and no small amount of contention.

Starting this Sunday, and continuing through the First Sunday of Advent, man with black hat will embark on a review of its own. We will introduce a brief history of the process that made the revision, and the conflicts brought on by that process. We will look at each part of the Mass and briefly review the changes and why they were made. Finally, we will examine the critical issues that will affect the official liturgical reform, for better or worse, as the worship of the Church continues onward.

We will bring the reader's attention to resources that delve into certain areas in greater depth. These sources have been providing this information for some time, but we will also include insights that are not commonly found in the Catholic press (including the Catholic blogosphere), as this writer has had the opportunity to witness certain developments from his own (we can only hope) unique vantage point.

And with that, stay tuned ...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obligatory “Perry and Romney Not Debating Each Other” Debate Moment

The gang at Fox News is on a roll, and just had another televised neo-con love fest ... er, presidential debate the other night. Mitt Romney was pretty smooth in standing up to Rick Perry as he went through the predictable whatever-happened-to-my-being-the-next-big-thing meltdown. Yeah, he's really losing that good old conservative base, on stuff the good old conservative base should have known if they had done their homework earlier this summer.

Anything for a pretty face, huh, guys?

Some people think that makes Romney looks better. Hey, Mittless, here's a news flash! The other guy screwing up doesn't make you any better. It only means there are now TWO has-beens to consider instead of one. Meanwhile, sleeper candidate Herman Cain finds his moment to shine. It's good to know he found a way to beat cancer big-time.

The real trick is what we learn later in the video.

Nicholas Benton Explains It All For You

From a syndicated column appearing in the Falls Church News-Press:

The terrible truth about AIDS is that, while outside factors introduced and perpetuated the 1970s sexual excesses, virtually every lethal infection was passed by one gay person to another. We did it to ourselves, even after knowing the consequences ...

Well, I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you.

Discuss. (H/T to

FAMW: Sabre Dance Music Video

Five years ago this November, Chris Guyon got his friends together and made a movie. All that's missing are the sabers to rattle. That, and Dave Edmunds. So it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Yeah, tell me about it ...

Katrina “The Crescat” Fernandez is opening nominations once again for her sixth annual allegedly anti-establishment “Cannonball Catholic Awards” (click here, if you must). Once again, we here at man with black hat would like to thank everyone who stood firm with us, and refused to nominate this weblog for anything, especially that dreaded, bad-for-self-esteem "Most Underappreciated" category. We really under-appreciate it.

Really. (Word to the wise: If you've been invited to Rome to sit at the cool kids' table, lose the "outsider" schtick, you're already mainstream. Deal with it.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Obligatory “Father Pavone” Yada Yada

Actually, it's not our story, but three links to the only stories you will really need to read.

The first is from Phil Lawler, former editor of Catholic World Report, who reminds everyone that signs of tension between the National Director of Priests for Life were evident as much as three years ago.

The question isn't whether or not the Church will support pro-life work. The question is whether priests and religious, when they engage in pro-life work, remain subject to ecclesiastical discipline.

The answer, by the way, is Yes. You can learn that the easy way or learn it the hard way.

The second is from noted canon lawyer Edward Peters, who introduces the reader to the ins and outs of how the Church handles such cases -- ostensibly. (Click here and/or here.) Priest-personnel matters are second to marriage cases in terms of the numbers that land at ecclesiastical courts, and this one just might make the docket. Read all about what's supposed to happen, who screwed up, and how it could have been avoided.

This won't be an attempt to either defend or attack Father Pavone's actions (if you don't count that time in 2004 he said that Catholics would endanger their souls by not voting for Bush in order to prevent Kerry from becoming President, or something like that, when I voted for a third-party candidate and didn't lose a minute's sleep over it). His work at attacking the evil of abortion is exemplary, and he remains one of the best friends a pro-lifer has, whether Catholic or not.

I'm just gonna lay out a wild guess here. Totally off the wall, okay? Don't quote me on this. (Like millions of people are ever gonna read this, right? I tell myself we're like an exclusive club; makes it easier to accept. But anyway ...) His bishop may have spoken carelessly in public at first, not out of malice, but for being misinformed by a zealous, and definitely jealous chancery official. Like I said, just a wild guess, because I've seen it happen before. In the previous episode, the bishop ends up having to cover up for the loser on his staff. Here's hoping this guy's made of stronger stuff.

It could happen. It usually doesn't.

Guitar Workshop: Speaking of CSNY ...

... yesterday's television clip of the supergroup* Crosby Stills Nash and Young, had us perusing through the vast archives that is YouTube. That's when we came upon this clip.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes provides a good example of how open tunings can set the tone for a composition, without the complex fingerwork. An intermediate rhythm player can fake his way through this like riding a bike. Our subject "privettricker" tells it this way: “Tuning is EEEEBE, although it's tuned down a step or two [which would probably make it DDDDAD -- DLA]. Hard for me to hear what he's doing during the guitar breaks, so I kind of winged it.”

Worth a shot.

* So called as it is in its entirety composed of, or fronted by, musicians who have already achieved critical acclaim in other bands, in this case, Crosby with The Byrds, Stills and Young with Buffalo Springfield, and Nash with The Hollies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: CSNY “Down By The River”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

By the late 1960s, I didn't care much for the so-called "acid rock" that was in fashion. What little sense (if any) to be found in the lyrics was rather depressing, and those so-called "rebels" against society were getting rich over whining about it. Crosby Stills and Nash changed all that, at least for me, with the release of their first album. Neil Young, who had worked with Stills in Buffalo Springfield a few years earlier, joined them shortly thereafter. This is their first TV appearance (I think) as a foursome (with extras) in 1969. I actually saw this one live, in living black and white.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You are now entering the Corti Zone!

(Cue the eerie music.)

My procedure was today, the epidural for a herniated disk in the lumbar region. (You remember, the "old karate injury," right?) I had to have someone drive me there who could also drive me home. Sal was gracious enough to do it. She has medical power of attorney over me -- it's a dirty job, but someone in the locality has to do it -- and she's the only one who volunteered. It was over an hour asking me questions, half of which they had in their computerized records already, and fifteen minutes of the actual procedure. The needle was actually less painful than the unnecessary questions. I mean, I'll bet they don't get many patients who react to the incisions by yelling: "Oh, yeah, THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!"

Hey, maybe it's just my way of handling pain. Is that a crime, I ask you?

Actually, I tend to be a bit of a curmudgeon. (Oh yes, 'tis shocking, I know.) Most of the time it's no problem, like at the parish where I work, but when I read the release form, I had a field day with the part about medicine and surgery not being an exact science, and that I had to allow for some risk of serious injury, even death. This is what happens when risk assessment lawyers begin taking over the world, not to mention force your Aunt Minnie to get fingerprinted even though she's been teaching Sunday school for forty years without incident, while Father Magillicuddy still manages to hide his kiddie porn collection ...

But, I digress.

Anyway, one of the nurses, also a Filipina, could not believe that Sal would be, uh, well, you know, with a guy like me. Can you imagine that?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reruns of "Law and Order" to watch.

The Faces of the Working Poor

In the interest of fairness, and mindful of the fact that there are usually two or more sides to a story, we present a report from Robert Ray of the Associated Press, on one example of a family that is a victim of the economic downturn. (By the way, there's plenty of work in the DC area, if you can afford the housing.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today is brought to you by the letter “Rrrrr”...

Hey, I almost forgot, today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Check out the highlights of the first annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day Drunken Sailor Sing-Along a Go Go, featuring those scurvy dogs Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy. Those two scalawags join more than fifty pirates and die-hard wannabes from all across the USA, in singing one of the best-known, best-loved sea songs of all time.

Click on the link to find out how to get in touch with YOUR inner pirate.

Uncle Jay’s Mother Explains

Today we were going to have yet another episode of “I read the news today, oh boy ...” until ...

Dear Mr./Ms. Subscriber:

Please excuse Uncle Jay's absence from class this week. Something came up with a member of his production staff, and also a member of his writing staff. And since he is both the writing and production staff, this prevented a new episode from being produced.

I acknowledge that in the past, Uncle Jay has attempted to sometimes forge these letters excusing his absence. Please accept my assurance that this letter is authentic.

My Mother

Of course, now that he is a fixture here at mwbh, it wouldn't be the same on Monday without dear old Uncle Jay. So we are showing the episode from this time last year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Rich Are The Poor?

In a speech while running for President in 1840, Whig Party candidate William Henry Harrison said:

“I believe and I say it is true Democratic feeling, that all the measures of the government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

In 1921, the wildly successful song Ain’t We Got Fun, contained this phrase attributed to the song's writers, Gus Kahn and Raymond Egan ...

“There's nothing surer: The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

... although the word "poorer" was often replaced in various performances by "children" and as time went on, "laid off." Probably why they called it the "Roaring" 20s, right? On top of that, it was also part of what Karl Marx referred as "the Law of Increasing Poverty."

No, not one of the Marx Brothers. This one was a communist. What the hell did HE know?

But what if someone told you that the poor are not getting poorer, but instead are getting richer, or at the very least, not nearly as poor as some political liberals (themselves often stinking rich) would have you believe? That is the conclusion of a study completed by (yeah, I know) the Heritage Foundation. It was also the subject of a recent piece in the left-leaning (not that there's anything wrong with that), which says that the study ...

... found that many poor people have amenities that were available only to the wealthy (if they existed at all) in 1959. The typical household at the poverty line includes air conditioning, two color televisions with a cable or satellite feed, a DVD player, and a microwave. Poor children usually have a video game system. More than 38 percent of poor people have a personal computer.

Columnist Brian Palmer cites as controversial, the study's claim that the Census Bureau overstates the plight of more than 46 million Americans, who supposedly live below the poverty threshold. With the assistance of Bill Whittle, we take a look at the study, and contemplate what one might mean by "poverty." The viewer who would dismiss Whittle as an East Coast country-club elitist -- he's wearing a suit with a tie, after all, not a baseball cap like that champion-of-the-downtrodden Michael Moore -- should really listen to the entire clip.

Yep, there's a surprise starting at 4:38, and it only gets better right up to the end.

Ain't WE got fun?

Friday, September 16, 2011

FAMW: A Man Who Is Usually Wong

Jo Wong was a speaker at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner in March 2010. Someone thought of this as an example of “how to turn lemons into lemonade.” At the very least, he is making the best of a difficult situation. Not to mention the best we could do for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Happens When Life Happens

I was going to write about the other night's "Tea Party"-sponsored presidential debate on CNN, but decided not to. You can read about Rick Perry coming out way ahead at Yahoo! News if you want, or an analysis about Rick Perry getting slapped around by the Vaudeville team that was the other candidates, in an analysis provided by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

But I don't want to talk about that stuff anymore, for awhile. Last Thursday night, I got a call from my brother “Kevin” that (probably) went something like this:

KEV: Hey, Dave, it's Kev.

DLA: Yeah, Kev, what's up?

KEV: Well (pause), we just wanted you to know that, uh, Mom had an accident, and ...

DLA: Oh, s#!t,
now what happened?

KEV: Well, the best we know is, she was going down to the basement, and she slipped and fell, got banged up pretty bad.

DLA: Just HOW bad?

KEV: She has a broken neck. Also a broken wrist, I forget which one. Plus, she has a lot of bruises on her head.

DLA: Oh, geez, was anyone else there?

KEV: Well, just Dad.

DLA: Yeah, but he can't do anything. How long did she have to lay there?

KEV: Actually, she, uh, managed somehow to get up the stairs and dial 911, and the ambulance came.

DLA: Well, good. Where is she now?

KEV: Well, they took her to Bethesda North at first, but they didn't have the facility for spinal care that she would have required, so they transferred her to University Hospital, where they have a specialist and a spinal care unit.

DLA: Okay, so ... is she alert? What's her status as of now?

KEV: Well, she's not unconscious, but she is in the ICU.

DLA: Do they know for how long?

KEV: Uh, no, nobody knows very much at this point. We'll probably know more in the next few days. Right now she's listed as in stable condition. Eventually they'll move her to rehab ...

DLA: ... yeah, right, but they're gonna need someone at the house all the time now, ya think?

KEV: Oh, yeah. We're looking at round-the-clock home care once Mom gets home.

DLA: And in the meantime, what about Dad?

KEV: Well, the three of us -- me, Mary, and Pat -- we'll just taking it one day at a time, and taking turns keeping an eye on Dad.

DLA: You've still got that gal coming in for the mornings, right?

KEV: Oh yeah. Definitely.

DLA: But what about ...

KEV: Dave, we just don't know. It's like I said, right now it's all touch and go until ...

DLA: Okay, okay. Um, should I come home?

KEV: Well, I suppose you could. It would mostly be just standing around until, you know, we know what's going on.

DLA: Yeah, fine, whatever. I'm just thinking maybe later this month or early October. Just for a few days. Maybe stop in and see Mom. Or somehting.

KEV: Sure, no problem. Whatever you can do. Just try to understand that, like, at this point we just don't know what's ...

DLA: ... what's going on. Yeah, I'll make a note. (long pause) So ... you're telling me she actually made it upstairs and called 911 herself? With a broken neck?? Are you f@#$ing kidding me???

KEV: (chuckling) Pretty strong stuff, huh?

It's always in the back of my head, getting through the day, every day, in a world five hundred miles from the heart's true home. My brother, my two sisters, have done as much as they can do at this point. Every finger is in a hole in the dike, when just one more leak starts up. That's when you run out of fingers and toes, and you start to wonder about the long haul. It's something every adult child with aging parents has to go through.

There have been other conversations since then, and I'll know a lot more later this week. At some point, probably when I'm there, the four of us will actually meet and go over our options. If one of you would say a rosary for Mom -- Dorothy, if you need the name in forming your prayer intentions -- I'd appreciate it. I'll be doing mine tonight, for someone else's intention. (Yeah, I get those too.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

“I read the news today, oh boy ...”

Uncle Jay compares the way things were in 2001 with how they are in 2011, to see if things are truly different. Are they really? After all, we're still struggling with how to spell Kadhafi.

In other news ...

A woman in St Petersburg, Florida, who allegedly claimed to be a vampire has been charged with battery after violently biting a man in a wheelchair on his face and arms, police said on Friday. (Reuters)

Officials in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, are moving a school bus stop after parents complained about its location in a strip club parking lot. Misty Umphries, who waits at the stop with her children, says she had to explain to her 4-year-old what "topless" means. (AP)

When a man with a gun jumped on the hood of her car in Kansas City and demanded she drive, Rayna Garrett obliged -- all the way to the police station. (Reuters)

How nervous was the law enforcement community this past weekend? Two fighter planes escorted a New York-bound American Airlines jet after three passengers locked themselves in a bathroom during the flight from Los Angeles. (AP)

Finally, anybody who's smoked marijuana knows about "the munchies," that desire to eat everything within reach. But a study from France has found that, surprisingly, pot smokers are actually less likely than non-smokers to pack on weight. (Reuters)

For now, that's all the news that fits. Ah, but the week is still young. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Four Unlikely Survivors (A 9/11 Postscript)

The online edition of Time magazine provides a montage of four survivors of the tragedy at the World Trade Center, featuring the photography and videography of Marco Grob. Click here to see and hear four moving accounts so artfully woven together.

Nine-Eleven Plus Ten

Last Sunday, a lead editorial in the Washington Post lamented the attention given to what happened in New York City on September 11, 2001, at the expense of the tragic scene on the same day in Washington, as a jet plane crashed into the west wall of the Pentagon, claiming 184 victims.

In history books, documentaries and news accounts and across popular culture, the shift toward an almost exclusive focus on the New York part of the 9/11 story has been steady and relentless. Amid hundreds of hours of programming in this week’s many television tributes, there are only nominal mentions of the Pentagon attack.

Today, the streets of New York will be cordoned off near the place known as "Ground Zero" to allow for the usual tributes by the usual suspects. Among them will be those who, for any other occasion, might be accused of loving the sound of their own voices. On the other hand, missing from the center of attention, will be the heroes of that day. The police officers and firefighters of the City of New York will not be in mass attendance. The city claims there was no room for them, so they were not invited. Nor were they invited on this day ten years ago, but they came. And those who are still with us remember nearly four hundred of their comrades who died, while trying to save the lives of thousands trapped in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Throughout the blogosphere today, thousands will go to the pages of their favorite would-be pundits, who will post tributes of their own. They will no doubt be sincere in so doing. But most of them can only give secondhand accounts. They were not there. I was in Washington on that day. This is my story.

+    +    +

Another Tuesday Morning

It started out much like any other day, in an office just two blocks west of the White House. About nine or nine-thirty in the morning, I got a call from an old friend in New Jersey. Go turn on the TV, she said with urgency. There was one tuned to CNN in a conference room nearby. That was when I learned what happened to the World Trade Center in New York City. My friend ended the call by begging me to "please, please, get the hell out of town!" But it would be a while.

I was on the top floor of the building, near the balcony in the north-east corner. From that vantage point, we could look down and see the people evacuating from the White House and related buildings. Over at the corner, I could see other associates at the other balcony on the southern side of our building, looking out over the Potomac. There was smoke coming from the Pentagon, where most offices of the Defense Department are located. A jetliner had just crashed into that as well.

Events were unfolding quickly, and rumors along with them. There was a report of a car bomb just up the street, near the World Bank. People described panic in the streets, although it looked more to me like the usual late rush hour traffic. In fact, most of it was less panic than pandemonium. Our boss was the deputy communications director. While he was awaiting an official order to dismiss us, other supervisors were already telling employees to get out of town post haste. Just down the street, the State Department was evacuating. Then a colleague came down from the front office. It's official, he said, everybody go home. By the time our press office could even find anyone to get a decision worth announcing, the building was nearly emptied.

My apartment at the time was just three miles from the office, across the Potomac into Arlington, Virginia. It would be an hour's walk. I could have taken the subway, but with the expected crowds, and some prior experience with just how Metro might respond in an emergency (which is to say, badly), I figured walking would get me home much sooner.

There was a university campus right there in the city. I stopped by the Newman Center, where I sometimes went to daily Mass, to see students huddled in front of a TV, and girls crying, consoling one another. I left after awhile to make my way home. Hundreds of others were doing the same. In the distance, and on television monitors and car radios, it was as a scene from a disaster movie. A plane crashing into a skyscraper. That same building collapsing. Smoke and flames bellowing from the nerve center of our nation's defense.

There was yet another rumor spreading along the sidewalks. The bridge into Virginia was being blocked. As ridiculous as it sounded, the unreality of the scene made it seem plausible. We were accustomed to roadblocks being erected on special occasions without apparent rhyme or reason. Why should a city under attack be any different?. But arriving at the bridge, the news turned out to be false. We ventured across the bridge, looking south to the Pentagon, to the reality of that which otherwise seemed unreal.

I made it to the Virginia side easily enough, certainly easier than most of the cars. I passed a high-rise apartment complex. A frantic woman was throwing furniture and belongings from seven or eight stories up. She was out of control. Someone said she was carrying a sign. I didn't see one. There was a videographer trying to get footage, while shouting questions to her about her motives. Anything for a Pulitzer, I thought.

I finally got home, and called my mother in Ohio. My siblings were calling in from elsewhere in and around Cincinnati, asking her if they had heard from me. I told them I was home safely; indeed, that I was never in any real danger. Meanwhile, my fifteen-year-old son called my house and left a message. I called the school to relay the same message to him. I learned later that his aunt, one of my former sisters-in-law, was stationed in the affected portion of the Pentagon. A doctor's appointment that day saved her life. My son had learned of this, and had taken it upon himself to alert other family members, including a frail maternal grandmother in Cleveland, that all was well, at least among their own.

It was a good thing I called home when I did. The lines were jammed for hours most of the day. That evening, a state of emergency was declared in the District, Maryland, and Virigina. No one allowed out on the streets or on the highway.


I listened to the pundits on television, one after another. They were all quite sure of ourselves, and what must be done. They went on for weeks about it, as if to say: "We interrupt our normal programming for this special report..." and then never stopping. One of them, a former Secretary of State, reminded us that this will not be over in a couple of weeks; the American people should be prepared for a long haul.

The Proverbs tell us: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to the people.” How righteous is this nation, this land that I love? Do we as a people see anything worth fighting for, worth dying for? Do I witness Rome before the fall, or Israel after she repents? The answer that day was found in the acts of bravery, accounts of which have been shared with us over the past decade. Some can only be imagined, as in a fiery crash in a Pennsylvania countryside. Then there are the rescue workers who marched into hell in Manhattan. Many have yet to be adequately compensated for their efforts, even those who will be scarred for life.

My own scars came much later.

Shifting Sands

Soldiers returning from war would usually put the horrors behind them, finding solace amidst family, friends, and community. I had no real family in the area, but after twenty years of living five hundred miles from them, I was finally putting down roots of my own, as if out of resignation that I would be here for awhile.

"Betty" was like some the girls I had grown up with in the Midwest; blond, of Irish-German stock, with that combined Doris Day and Marlo Thomas thing going on for herself. We met at a dance about a year earlier. I taught her to dance to zydeco, she laughed at my jokes, and in time, one thing led to another, and we were as thick as fleas. But after keeping company for at least a year, when I needed her most, she was beginning to have her doubts. It was never anything specific, and it was never anything resolute. She would go back and forth over the course of a weekend, insisting on "having more space," flirting with other men at parties, while taking me to task for even looking at a woman myself. It was a pattern that repeated itself ad nauseum. Betty couldn't just end it, and I couldn't just let go of it. This dance with the devil's handmaiden went on for months. Her friends begged her just to get it over with, to quit stringing the poor guy along. She didn't listen to them, and I didn't listen to common sense.

One day, about a month after the tragedy, they found me at my desk, sobbing profusely. I was sent home, and placed on medical leave for several weeks. Eventually, Betty would tire even of her own charade, and ended it once and for all. By then, there wasn't much left of the man that I was, and when our mutual circle of fair-weather friends chose sides, they chose the one who could keep the party going.

It was nearly two years before the effects of 9-11 really wore off. It is true that I did not face death. But the memorial in Pennsylvania field marks a spot that might just as easily have been at or near the Capitol dome, or even the White House.* For those who have never seen it, the latter is not a very big target. A jet plane flown by amateur pilots on a suicide mission, might just as easily have landed on my desk nearby. Just knowing that, and remembering today the events of back then, are a chilling reminder of the fragility of life, and the need to live every moment as though it would be the last. It was also a wake up call, to surround myself with a better class of people -- specifically, people who would make it easier, not harder, to get into Heaven.

And so, if only for me, today will be like any given Sunday. It is difficult to imagine any other way.

A Parting Thought

Meanwhile, I wonder what would happen, if the entire body of the police and fire departments of the City of New York were to drop what they were doing, and proceed on foot, en masse, to the ceremony at Ground Zero? What if they ignored the blockades, were let by with the silent approval of their appointed colleagues, and surrounded the festivities? What if those charged with security issued no warnings, made no arrests? What if the city fathers, and the nation's leaders, were to pause from their pontificating, and were left to gaze out in wonder, at the silent faces of those who refused to be forgotten?

Who could turn them away? They are the true memorials, the living testament to the best and most virtuous that humanity has to offer the world. At the very least, they had faced more dangerous adversaries than well-heeled dignitaries. At the most, they would refuse to be dismissed. Nor shall they be here.

I am reminded of the words of a psalm, the one an outfit of the British Army would carry with them before going into war. I was told they never lost a man:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust ...’”
-- Psalm 90(91):1

And so, with God as our witness, we remember.

+    +    +

* Suspicions at the time notwithstanding, in a September 2002 interview, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are believed to have organized the attacks, said Flight 93's intended target was the United States Capitol, not the White House.

Friday, September 09, 2011

FAMW: “They Might Be Hand Puppets”

This video reminds yours truly of the hand puppets he created as a boy. In fact, there was a complete cast of about a dozen of them, providing amusement in the final hour between the official "lights out" and actually falling asleep. The song is entitled “Spoiler Alert” from the new album by the Two Guys Named John, otherwise known as They Might Be Giants, and the album is entitled “Join Us.” You can buy the album at Amazon, or at the TMBG website. So much for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy

(H/T to Victor Lams.)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Obligatory “Debate at Reagan Library” Post Mortem

This is a bit late, but it's not old news yet. In fact, very little about the contest for the Republican presidential nomination can be "old news" at this point. On the other hand, the question of who is ahead can become precisely that overnight. We can still remember this time last month, when Michele Bachmann was considered the rising star from out of nowhere.

Aren't we waxing nostalgic already?

But that was before Texas Governor Rick Perry finally stopped dicking around and threw his hat in after the Iowa State Fair folded up its tents. Here he is at last Wednesday night's debate, comparing notes the hard way with Mitt "Least Offensive Candidate" Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts. Both of them certainaly did their homework, but notice how Romney has been discovering his inner caveman ever since Iowa. He knows he has to convince the conservative base that he has a set of cajones worth putting in the White House. Beyond that, it still comes down to his positions, and his record.

It's interesting how the "Catholic question" came up, and its handling by Rick Santorum warrants some focus here. A good many Catholics who are concerned about social justice issues have long believed that Republicans (and conservatives in general) are not compassionate enough about the poor, but only want to cater to Wall Street, as if no liberal Democrat in recent history ever benefited from the deep pockets. (Isn't that right, Mr Soros?) The thing they consistent forget, in the pages of Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter, is that it is easier to be generous with someone else's money (in the form of taxes) than with your own.

Those of you who are longtime readers of mwbh know that Newt Gingrich doesn't rate very highly around here. But we have to hand it to him for his golden moment the other night, when he took the media mavens to task for putting an arbitrary spin on the nomination coverage. Maybe someday Newt and the rest of the gang will get around to discussing entitlement reform as a critical issue in reconciling the federal budget (which we have yet to see for a fiscal year that is almost over). But first, the pundits need to stop pitting the candidates against one another, and the candidates need to stop falling for it.

Finally, we come to the candidate everyone wants to ignore, Ron Paul. There are many politically and socially conservative Catholics who would like to see this guy win. He doesn't follow the pack, he doesn't shift his positions to play to the pollsters, and he cuts across the usual ideological lines. But every now and then, just when we think he will win the day for once, he opens his mouth and says something completely off the wall. Does he really believe anyone could build a fence to keep American investors from taking jobs over the border, never mind overseas? This sort of tirade doesn't happen often, but it happens often enough. As long as it does, Paul will never rise to anyone's top tier of candidates, no matter how smart enough people think he is.

Now, notice we didn't feature Ms Bachmann. That's because she doesn't have much to show for last Wednesday night. And we have to remember, it's still early in the game. Standing on a podium for one night is not the same as running the country for four years. There will be other podiums, and other nights. The candidate featured on the newsmags one month, could be thinking of dropping out next month. There's still time for the fat lady to sing, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Happy 75th Birthday, Buddy Holly!


Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: He Carried Yellow Flowers

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

From Breitbart.TV comes this political advertisement made for web viewing, for Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain. Its purpose is not quite so obvious, as it sort of sneaks up on you. The main actor is Nick Searcy -- or is it Next Thursday? -- best known for his part as Marshal Art Mullen on FX's Justified. (No, I never heard of him either.) He's also five years younger than yours truly, even though he looks older (or is it that yours truly really looks ... uh, never mind).

This appearance should not be construed as an endorsement of Cain. Still, we could do worse.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Still “bookish” after all these years ...

PHOTO: The author's father at his desk in high school, Latin textbook at the ready, Saint Gregory Minor Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1940.

It happened at my high school reunion. One of my classmates was a girl who had been from my hometown, whom I had known since we were in kindergarten. But going to a Catholic high school in the city put us on different paths, and she ran with the "popular crowd." But here we were, thirty years later, and she introduced me to her husband. Imagine my shock to learn of how he had looked forward to seeing me, a guy whose wife barely spoke to me in high school, and hadn't much after that. It seems I reminded her of the younger of their two sons, who always had his nose in a book. He just had to meet the man himself. We've been good friends ever since.

They say that computers and the internet have lowered attention spans in children, and according to a recent article by David P Goldman, “a moron with a computer is still a moron.”

“In the Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores” is the headline of a New York Times account of the uselessness of high-tech education. Since the Clinton administration, liberal “experts” have argued that giving every kid a laptop, “educational” software, and Internet access will produce a generation of geniuses. That has to be the stupidest idea in the history of education. Of course, it hasn’t worked. But that doesn’t discourage the New Age nerds who run the Obama adminstration’s education policy.

Goldman also points out that children who learn to play a musical instrument are more likely to excel in traditional academic subjects, and are much more likely to be accepted into -- get this! -- medical school. Can you believe it?

I can. My smartphone has four e-reader formats; Adobe Reader, Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Borders' Kobo. Some books I can get from one and not the other. I'm reading one of four or five books at any one time, in a wide variety of subjects. (One is about Friedrich Nietzsche's sister. Go figure.) What else can I do; there are too many real books in the house as it is. I'm also re-learning computer animation, digital photography, and web development in my spare time, I hope for future career prospects at the age of fifty-six, a time when most in the civil service are thinking about retirement.

Why do I do this? From the time I was young, I have been driven by a force beyond even my own comprehension, never to go through life being average. Is there a cost? Well, I'm not much of a "schmoozer" at parties, unless it's a small group and I'm holding my own in conversation. Not much occasion to mingle in that setting. And (perhaps worst of all) I don't play the guitar as often as I used to.

I might have to remedy that someday soon. But first I have to master Tagalog -- probably.

Mikey Bustos: Filipino Tutorial Interrupted: “The Water is Broke!”

We haven't heard from our Pinoy Boy for a few weeks now. Maybe he was on vacation. Maybe we weren't paying attention. And speaking of paying attention, any parent will tell you that, no matter how well you plan or how accurately it is projected by a doctor, the little one comes when you least expect it.

Miguel Antonio Bustos was born on August 28. No other information concerning the birth is presently available. This is the only photo of the little one to have been released, at least of which we are aware.

Probably not an accurate likeness. We'll get back to you.

Altering the Constitution

The Federalist Papers were a compendium of 85 essays, published separately between October 1787 and August 1788, to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.

At the time, the new nation was ruled under the Articles of Confederation, which gave the several States even more autonomy, and less cohesion as a Union, than was eventually called for under the document that eventually took its place. While the authors of the Papers were undisclosed, most scholars attribute the works to Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.

In a 1999 article, the late Joe Sobran observes that the authors would be aghast to see to what extent the rights of the several States, to say nothing of the people, have devolved in the present day. He places particular attention on the power wielded by the judiciary.

Jefferson warned that the federal government must never be allowed to be the sole and final judge of its own powers, because it would construe those powers so broadly as to destroy all limits on them. Yet we now take for granted that the U.S. Supreme Court has the authority to decide what the Constitution means, though no such authority is given to it in the Constitution itself.

Most Americans know little about the Constitution, and much of what they know ain’t so. They “know” there are three branches of government, that each state has two U.S. senators, and that the Bill of Rights says something about freedom of speech; and they are content to let the Supreme Court fill in the blanks. And conservatives do little to correct this impression.

...and, as we observe, the founders warned us of the scenario to which we may be subjected today.


Sunday, September 04, 2011


In the early 1990s, I was a sacristan at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, DC. It is the oldest Catholic Church in what is now the Nation's capital, and is staffed by the Jesuit Fathers. During the 1970s, it acquired a certain caché, as the Kennedy family and numerous other prominent Catholics of the city made it their spiritual home. Over the years, it has also been the subject of controversy. While I was there, it was the setting for a protest against "barring" women from ordination, as a parishioner decided to remain standing throughout Mass every Sunday for more than a year. This act called attention to various liturgical abuses, the promotion of errors in Church teaching, and scandalous administration of the sacraments, all of which eventually led to ecclesiastical scrutiny, and a return of discipline to the parish.

In the wake of what became known as "The Standing," the parish website hosted a discussion forum. By that time I had left the employment of the parish, but knew that my view of things would be dismissed as overly rigid, or too dogmatic. Or something. So I took as my nom de plume the name of another man who was very much underestimated for most of his priestly like, the Capuchin monk Father Solanus Casey (1870 - 1957), who was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The responses of “Solanus” to those who dissented from Church teaching, or who looked for guidance amidst a period of uncertainty in the life of the parish, were said later to be read by nearly every Jesuit on the Georgetown campus, most of whom concluded that I was either a retired member of their order, or a woman. (Don't ask.) I attribute my success entirely to his intercession.

You can read about his life at the website of the Father Solanus Guild, or listen to a homily about his life, delivered in April of last year, by Father Franklyn McAfee, Pastor Emeritus of the Church of St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. (Click here.)

Friday, September 02, 2011

“... and I will try to fix you.”

At last, the culprit was found. We had a widget, way down in the blue sidebar, that had not been active for some time. It was produced by a third party whose website was “” Apparently they specialize in custom blogrolls, or at least they used to. Their website is no longer active. So for the last few days, that line of code was redirecting mwbh to the placeholder of a website you can see for yourself by clicking on the URL in case you missed it this week. We are grateful for the consulting services of Richard Chonak, who also co-authors the group blog Catholic Light, for helping us identify the problem.

Of course, we also feature the return of Gloria TV News. Our damsel-with-the-long-braided-hair-to-die-for Doina Buzut began her daily reports again today, we think. She didn't tell us, but it's a safe bet she told that guy who does "Acts of the Apostasy" since he's featured there at least two or three times a month. Our hearts are broken, but we just can't seem to let go. So there she is. But we're leaving the AP news feed here for now, in case she decides once again to toy with our affections.

We are also using this opportunity to take measure of the substance of this weblog, and are beginning consultation as to how to improve it. The appearance will likely remain basically the same, but with a re-arrangement that will highlight our unique features more readily on the page, and the removal of items that have fallen into disuse. We might also finally lick that problem with coding for toggle-based archive listings.

But most important of all, the Hat of Black ... is back. Let's all click on the video and sing something!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

FAMW: Speaking of Blogrolling ...

... that's right, we're back! (Well, sort of.)

Our little mishap yesterday reminds us here at mwbh of the “Rickrolling” phenomenon. This is when a performance is interrupted by Rick Astley's overexposed 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up." We're not giving up either, since only our daytime workstation is currently affected (and the smartphone, go figure). So for now, the result of yesterday's events is little more than this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Then again, Blogger Support might get back to us by the end of the year, especially when we send them daily reminders.

Every. Single. Day. (Oh, yes. We will.)

DULY NOTED: We also forgot what day of the week it was, which should tell you what kind of a week it was. Oy!