Friday, January 31, 2014

FAMW: Anna Kendrick: Behind the Scenes of the Mega Huge Game Day Ad Newcastle Almost Made

The time has come upon us for the Super Bowl, which means that we here at man with black hat review the totally awesome big-@$$ budget commercials. We start with the story behind the scenes of what might have been. After all, Anna Kendrick has been a big favorite of late here at Chez Alexandre, after viewing her at work several dozen times already, in the 2012 collegiate a capella comedy-drama Pitch Perfect.

We have plans to devote the next month to some aspects of both the movie (not all of which are completely decadent by the standards of our target audience), and her musical work, but until then, and until we run down our favorite picks among the Super Bowl ads, here's a conceptual rough cut of the ad for Newcastle beer that got away, but for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

(NOTICE: Content advisory, kinda sorta. Whatever.)
 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Saint Martina Edition)

This past Saturday, the Holy Father released two doves as a gesture of peace, in the face of political unrest in Ukraine. The birds were immediately set upon by a crow and a seagull. It wasn't a pretty sight, but for those who can handle it, click here.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of True Believers lately:

Speaking of doves, Saint John Chrysostom reminds us of the equal importance of the cleverness of snakes. Oh yeah, there's an angle on that too. [Catholic Radio Dramas]

Brian Brown knows what the Church really needs, and it may not only be more priests. Has someone been reading to much (into) Tolkien lately? [Aleteia]

In Connecticut, writer and mother-of-nearly-a-dozen Kristin Bothur announces that she has started yoga classes, and defies the prospective reaction of any traditional Catholics who believe her to be dabbling in Eastern spirituality as a result. She ends her commentary with the salutation “Namaste!” This is a common form of greeting among Buddhists and Hindus, and means “I bow to the divine in you.” Who are we to judge? You go, girl! [11 On My Own]

You'll never guess who's complaining about “what's it like to be a glamorous, highly paid, and sexy Catholic writer?” Yeah, like Mark Shea is the only one who gets weird emails about how the Pope is kinda sorta the Antichrist. What a crybaby! [Catholic and Enjoying It!]

If Steubenville wunderkind Marc Barnes keeps writing stuff like this, he may need to retitle his blog "Bad Theology." We'll talk more about that next month. For now, see if you can find the source of his badness. [Bad Catholic]

Finally, Pope Francis might take comfort in the knowledge that he (also) made the cover of ... [Rolling Stone]

Even more finally, it is reported that the Vatican is not amused by the “surprising crudeness” of the aforementioned write-up. Personally, I'm surprised that they're surprised. And besides ... Who are they to judge? [Catholic World Report]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Remembering Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature, which is running later than usual. Then again, there is little that is usual about this segment.

There is much that could be said (most of which cannot be done justice in this venue) about the American folksinger-activist Pete Seeger, who died peacefully in his sleep last Monday evening at New York's Presbyterian Hospital, surrounded by members of his family. He was 94. Seeger had just been out chopping wood only ten days before, and a few days after that was admitted. We should all be so active right up to the end.

Seeger's American roots can be traced back to the Colonial era, and a prominent New England family. His father was an eminent musicologist, his mother a prolific classical violinist, and nearly all of his siblings were involved with music in one form or another, most of it in the Anglo-American folk tradition. He was among the first of a long line of upper-crust bourgeois bohemians assuming the hard-scrapple appearance of the downtrodden, and who were the staple of the early- and mid-20th century folk revival (which preceded the over-commercialized "folk scare" of the late-1950s and early-1960s). Most people are aware of Seeger's advocacy of communism, and of his blacklisting for defying the American political system, which to some extent made possible the very way of American life about which he sang. Some might even remember how he visited North Vietnam in 1972, and extolled the virtues of their way of life, even as American servicemen were being held prisoner there. Very few people would remember that he equally despised the variety of communism promoted by Soviet Russia (his dalliance with Hanoi notwithstanding), that he regretted his association with the movement in later years, and that he performed at a 1982 benefit concert for the decidedly anti-communist Polish Solidarity labor movement.

On a personal note, this writer first taught himself to play the banjo in 1979, using Seeger's classic instruction book “How To Play The 5-String Banjo” first published in 1954 by Folkways, and revived in 1992 by Music Sales America.

The music that Seeger made popular, whether his own, or picked up along the way, experienced a resurgence in later years, especially at the behest of Bruce Springsteen and his famous “Seeger Sessions” in 2006. The first clip is one of Seeger singing "Michael Row The Boat Ashore" for college students in Melbourne, Australia, in 1963, a time when he was rarely seen on American television. The second is a one-hour live performance by Springsteen and his Seeger Sessions Band at the London Symphony Orchestra's Music Education Centre ("LSO St Luke's") in London.

This man who despised injustice in America was prophetic in some respects, and hopelessly naive in others. In the end, he was only a man, who returned to the dust of the earth, as will all of us who remember him, and who appreciate what he left us.

Rest in peace, old traveler. May God have mercy on you.
 

Monday, January 27, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (St Angela Merici Edition)

This past Wednesday, in what can only prove all the more to their being the least credible news source in America, MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell interrupted former Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), as they were discussing the National Security Agency's increasing (and most likely illegal) surveillance of private citizens, to report breaking news on the arrest of popstar Justin Bieber. Meanwhile, some left-wing nut job thinks this is a right-wing conspiracy.

Yeah. Right.

Meanwhile (yawn!), elsewhere on planet Earth:

Remember how you used to look up at the clouds and think maybe one of them looked like a jelly doughnut? Well, they're doing that with rocks on Mars now. [The Independent]

Neil Young wants the Canadian government to honor (ooops, I mean, "honour") its treaty with the Indians regarding land use rights, because Indians are, like, totally cool, you know? [The Toronto Sun]

Years ago, they had young ladies passing out samples of Marlboro cigarettes in those red-and-white boxes. Look for the green-and-white boxes to appear real soon. [Abril Uno]

No, wait, that last story was made up, and it just slipped past us. Oh well, here's one almost as believable, that women in Afghanistan were once able to go to college, wear skirts above the ankle, and mix freely with men. Only this time, the photos are real. Lots of 'em. [The Daily Mail]

You've seen the uniforms that Team USA is wearing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, but they've got nothing on the Norwegian curling team. [The Wall Street Journal]

Finally, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle is revealed, and you read it here first (or, if you're headed there anytime soon, you read it here last). [Gizmodo]

And that's all the news that fits (including Uncle Jay's kitty cat video). As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Post-March-For-Life Edition)

After due consideration (and finding enough time on our hands this week), we here at man with black hat have decided to continue what we started with the pilot edition (which explains everything) of this heretofore potential weekly series. But we wanted to begin with hope, in the form of these young ladies at the annual March For Life yesterday. (Thanks, EWTN.) They were among the more than 600,000 demonstrators that the mainstream media did such a fantastic job of pretending were never there.* And on that promising note, we go on with the aforementioned potential.

Here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of True Believers lately:

Pope Francis baptized the child of a couple married outside the Church, and Cardinal O'Malley received a blessing from a Protestant minister. Canonist Edward Peters defends the licitness of these actions, and tries to allay any confusion caused by their defenders. Exit question: Does he succeed in ending the confusion over just how confusing this is? We report. You decide. [In the Light of the Law]

The word on the street is that the apparitions of Medjugorje are "no hoax." Well, not quite. What the starry-eyed promoters won't tell you is that "it is proving difficult for the Church to form a definitive verdict on the supernatural nature of a phenomenon that is ongoing." Duh. So, the burden of proof remains, not with the skeptics (as according to the consistent teaching of the Church, it never is), but with the promoters. [Vatican Insider/La Stampa]

After taking them to task in an earlier piece, Father Dwight Longnecker now explains why he loves those self-absorbed, promethean, neo-Pelagians otherwise known as "trad Catholics." But take heart, ye faithful remnant, as those stalwart defenders of Truth and Anal Retention will not be fooled so easily. [Standing On My Head]

Deacon Greg Kendra describes how to organize a parish altar server program that is "awesome" in ten easy steps. He left out one, however, which even the Holy See has acknowledged to be a venerable practice: make it an altar BOY program. (The pictures are awesome, too, by the way.) [The Deacon's Bench]

Kathy Schiffer is drawing a line in the sand, people. She will no longer be singing two particular hymns at Mass, no matter how hard the cantor waves his/her hands (which looks really ridiculous, by the way). One of them is an overly ideological diatribe entitled “Sing a New Church Into Being,” a composition of Benedictine Sister Delores Dufner, distributed by the McDonald's of Catholic hymnody (who else?), Oregon Catholic Press. Some of us prefer the old Church we already have, the one established by ... uh, you know. [Seasons of Grace]

Meanwhile, in a venue normally devoted to sacred music, Kathleen Pluth and Ben Yanke offer differing views on the wearing of casual clothing at Mass. One cannot help but notice that, in virtually every other area of our lives, the proper form of dress for a particular occasion is rarely if ever a bone of contention. There's a message there somewhere. [The Chant Café]

Finally, the head of the Commission of Cardinals appointed to advise Pope Francis has told the German daily newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, that they are recommending the creation of a new high-level Vatican dicastery, the Congregation for the Laity. After all, the best way to reform any bureaucracy is always ... more bureaucracy. Then again, even Cardinal Newman once said that “the Church would look foolish” without the laity. We'll see who looks foolish when this is settled. [CatholicCulture.org]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

* FOOTNOTE: In the interest of fairness, both ABC and NBC gave the event a brief mention on their evening news programs. ABC, usually the least biased of the "Big Three," mentioned how the President said (in effect) that a woman had a right to kill her children as part of "reproductive health," but NBC simply reported on what happened. No attempt on the part of either was made to show pro-abortion advocates. We don't know what they did on CBS. Who cares?
 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript



Today it begins, our fifth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense to come in out of the cold during the annual March for Life. (Click here for last year's transcript.) The following is the transcript of this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC. Items may be edited slightly for correction.

A video portal appears here, with a live feed during the event, later to appear as a pre-recording of the same. You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.

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@mattswaim You want status? Here's my status. tinyurl.com/kyfrcv2 #prolifecon
5:55am

Welcome to the #prolifecon Twitcast! The video feed is on. Go to tinyurl.com/kyfrcv2 or frc.org/prolifecon/ and see it in real time.
8:21am

See the premier conference for the online pro-life community! tinyurl.com/kyfrcv2 #catholic #prolife #prolifecon
8:31am

Anna Higgins, Senior Fellow for Life Studies, Family Research Council, introduces the event. #prolifecon
8:32am

Bethany Goodman, Assistant Director, March for Life Education and Defense Fund, welcomes the guests. #prolifecon
8:34am

"Going out on the National Mall in a few hours. Temperatures are below freezing, but it's an opportunity to show the world ..." #prolifecon
8:35am

"What can pro-life online activists do to help the March for Life?" [Well, we're doin' it now.] #prolifecon #whywemarch
8:36am

"We want a culture in which every child is honored." #prolifecon #whywemarch
8:38am

Live coverage on #EWTN. Live. Right now. #prolifecon #whywemarch
8:39am

"We've got an app for that." Text MARCH4LIFE to 99000. Stay connected year round. #catholic #prolifecon #whywemarch
8:41am

Tony Perkins, President of FRC, introduces the next speaker. "Life has value because it is created in the image of God." #prolifecon
8:47am

Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC, is speaking now. "I'm from Wisconsin, so this is like summer weather here." #prolifecon
8:49am

"We're the pro-life party." #prolifecon
8:50am

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) has served since 1994, as an advocate for pro-life issues. "Abortion ends a beating heart." #prolifecon
8:52am

"There might have been a cure for cancer, if a life had not been snuffed out." #prolifecon
8:54am

Co-sponsoring a bill prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortions, even through Obamacare. #prolifecon
8:55am

"Conscience protections." Companies like Hobby Lobby should be able to opt out of health plans that cover abortions. #prolifecon
8:58am

Birth fathers should have parenting rights, and a registry should be established to better facilitate adoptions. #prolifecon
8:59am

"There are now more Americans who are pro-life than who are pro-abortion." #prolifecon
8:59am

Joe Carter, Director of Communications, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. #prolifecon
9:01am

"It's not enough to work to overturn Roe v Wade." #prolifecon
9:02am

"Abortion should be as much of a crime as murder. We must do this through persuasion." #prolifecon
9:02am

The March is a good thing, but is not necessarily a tool for persuasion. #prolifecon
9:05am

"What we should be focusing on, is persuading people towards the dignity of human life." #prolifecon
9:06am

We see pictures of babies every hour on Facebook. They "have become a part of our pro-life context." #prolifecon
9:06am

Not by images of aborted babies, but pictures of live babies that evoke love for the child. #prolifecon
9:07am

"Our primary task is not to change the world, but to be faithful to the One who created it." #prolifecon
9:09am

Ryan Bomberger, Chief Creative Officer, The Radiance Foundation, was the product of a rape, and whose mother chose life. #prolifecon
9:13am

theradiancefoundation.org #prolifecon
9:14am

@lifehaspurpose #prolifecon
9:15am

"I'm an adoptee, and an adoptive father of four." #prolifecon
9:16am

"Adoption is a transformative act of love, not just for the child, but for the family, and the for whole world." #prolifecon
9:18am

Planned Parenthood promotes the myth: Unintended equals unwanted equals unloved. They demonize adoption. #prolifecon
9:20am

adoptedandloved.com Celebrate beautiful possibility. #prolifecon
9:20am

RT @TomCrowe Have a happy "Let's all ignore the huge mass of pro-lifers in the capital" day, @CNN @msnbc, @ABC, @CBS! #marchforlife
9:21am

sallyslambs.org #prolifecon
9:22am

"Follow us on Twitter at @lifehaspurpose."
9:23am

Read "From one adoptee to another: Dear Elijah ..." at theradiancefoundation.org #prolifecon
9:24am

toomanyaborted.com #prolifecon
9:26am

Brian Fisher, Co-Founder and President, Online for Life, joins us via Skype. #prolifecon
9:26am

Online For Life: So every life makes their mark. #prolifecon
9:28am

Non-profit based in Dallas, TX, with 25 on staff, and 6000+ users on App. #prolifecon
9:30am

More than 1400 babies saved, including those in hardship situations. Also a source for pro-life graphics. #prolifecon
9:31am

Formula for saving babies from abortion: Market Penetration + Effectiveness = Babies Saved #prolifecon
9:32am

Core Mission: Call center referrals for women w/crisis pregnancies: Marketing Outreach > Call Center > Pregnancy Center > Church #prolifecon
9:34am

prolifeapp.com is a new app replacing the "online for life" app. #prolifecon
9:35am

Over time, this app shows the effectiveness of your prayers in saving the unborn, all monitored by OFL. #prolifecon
9:38am

onlineforlife.org prolifeapp.com #prolifecon
9:40am

Arina Grossu, Director, Center for Human Dignity, Family Research Council. #prolifecon
9:42am

Someone once said: "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist ..." #prolifecon
9:43am

"If life is not respected at one level, it will not be respected at another level." #prolifecon
9:43am

Dr Henry Potrykus, Senior Fellow, FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) #prolifecon
9:45am

Subject: Some things abortion has done to the country, economically and otherwise. #prolifecon
9:46am

Abortion legalization causally reduces births by about 10 percent. #prolifecon
9:48am

Dr Potrykus' study is quite elaborate, and too much to summarize in this venue. #prolifecon
9:51am

More details at: marri.us/abortion-effect #prolifecon
9:57am

Jason Jones, who flew in from Hawaii, co-produced the film "Bella." #prolifecon
9:58am

An upcoming film "Gimme Shelter," opens this weekend, which shows the human side of crisis pregnancies. #prolifecon
10:01am

gimmeshelterthemovie.com #prolifecon
10:03am

Intermission until 10:10 local time. #prolifecon
10:04am

And ... we're back! #prolifecon
10:11am

Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life of America #prolifecon
10:12am

The majority of abortions in America are performed on college-aged women. #prolifecon
10:13am

The young people are not the future of the pro-life movement, they ARE the pro-life movement. #prolifecon
10:15am

"Be the revolution." #prolifecon
10:18am

RT @SisterToldjah From pro-abortion to pro-life: My #MarchForLife thoughts on #RoeAt41 bit.ly/KFvMiq #fb
10:19am

RT @CatholicLisa via @WomenOfGrace Braving Cold and Snow, March for Life Goes On! dlvr.it/4ltqSL #Catholic
10:19am

Roland Warren, CEO, Care Net #prolifecon
10:22am

Provider of training and referrals for crisis pregnancies. #prolifecon
10:23am

When the slaves were free, they left being slaves, but returned as sharecroppers. There are still issues to this day. #prolifecon
10:26am

We do very little in the pro-life movement to engage fathers and husbands. When Roe v Wade is overturned, is that a win? #prolifecon
10:27am

care-net.org #prolifecon
10:28am

"Most single mothers are not single mothers by choice, but by chance. We need a family-centric approach to this issue. #prolifecon
10:30am

"We can't just be pro-life, we have to be pro-abundant life." #prolifecon
10:31am

The story of the Holy Family is the pro-life narrative. It is not just about "unplanned" pregnancy, but about raising a child. #prolifecon
10:33am

Jane Fuller, Executive Director, Assist Pregnancy Center of Virginia #prolifecon
10:34am

Pregnancy centers belong to associations, but are otherwise independent. #prolifecon
10:36am

Women with unplanned pregnancies do not respond well to the description of "crisis." #prolifecon
10:36am

"We believe that 'choice' means providing all the information available, including the risks associated with abortion." #prolifecon
10:38am

"We are here for women and their partners, no matter their choice." #prolifecon
10:39am

"I can't believe there's a heartbeat. I can't believe I would have aborted that child. I felt a weight lifted from me." #prolifecon
10:42am

"We have women who come in considering abortions, who come in solely for the state-required ultrasound." #prolifecon
10:44am

"Anyone who can take infanticide and make it look like a suitable option, that's very good marketing through manipulation." #prolifecon
10:46am

"We need to expose the absurdity that abortion is 'quality health care.'" #prolifecon
10:47am

Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) #prolifecon
10:48am

The only physician who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. Funding for abortion is approved not by law, but annually. #prolifecon
10:50am

Loopholes in the Affordable Care Act presently allow *administrative* funds to cover health plans that cover abortion. #prolifecon
10:52am

[NOTE: At this juncture, a question was asked by yours truly, in the face of examples provided, as to whether the executive branch of government violating the rule of law so openly, represented a much more serious problem than the handling of a single appropriation, adding something about "high crimes and misdemeanors," which resonated with those present. The congressman, to his great credit, used what time was left to rise to the occasion, and provide an excellent summation of the complexities of the law in this matter. Watch for it in the video replay beginning at 2:46:56.]

Jill Stanek, Blogger, jillstanek.com #prolifecon
11:00am

"My topic today is 12 blogging tips in 12 minutes." #prolifecon
11:02am

"1. Strive for excellence." #prolifecon
11:02am

"2. Find your niche." #prolifecon
11:03am

[NOTE: This is my niche. How am I doing?] #prolifecon
11:03am

"3. Think of your blog as a vocation." #prolifecon
11:04am

"4. Develop a mission statement." #prolifecon
11:05am

"5. Blog strategically." #prolifecon
11:05am

"6. Simplest way to get more traffic? Blog often." #prolifecon
11:06am

"7. Keep it pithy." #prolifecon
11:07am

"8. Give photo credit." #prolifecon
11:09am

"9. Write original content." #prolifecon
11:12am

"10. Cross post." #prolifecon
11:12am

"11. Be accurate." #prolifecon
11:13am

"12. Develop a thick skin." #prolifecon
11:13am

PHOTO: Jill Stanek

The Duggar Family, Stars of TLC's "19 Kids & Counting" #prolifecon
11:14am

Jim Bob and Michelle. #prolifecon
11:14am

The Duggars share a moving account of their 19th baby born prematurely through an emergency c-section. #prolifecon
11:18am

God says: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." They told of a miscarriage that was a side effect of contraception. #prolifecon
11:19am

RT Michelle @duggarfam at @FRCdc #prolifecon "If we speak the truth in love, this generation can c abortion is wrong" ow.ly/i/4mzuN
11:20am

Josh Duggar, one of the 19, introduces a special guest, Senator and former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. #prolifecon
11:23am

[Rick Santorum is standing right next to me. I told him, "Hey, you're wearing the vest." Thumbs up. "Good job." He was mildly amused.] #prolifecon
11:27am

"Women who have been lied to, abandoned by their men, by the sexual revolution, want to do the right thing ..." #prolifecon
11:30am

"... but do not always know where to turn. This is a movement of love, not of judgment." #prolifecon
11:31am

"Teenagers are more pro-life than the generation that gave us Roe vs Wade. The truth doesn't go away by ignoring it." #prolifecon
11:32am

"If abortion is such a good thing, why don't they come right out and say 'We need more abortions," as though it's a good thing?" #prolifecon
11:34am

"See that little baby moving around in there? It's hard to say that's not a human life." #prolifecon
11:35am

"If the campaign is all about defense, you're going to lose." The opponent will assume the narrative, and box you in a corner. #prolifecon
11:40am

And so ends another ProLifeCon. The temperature is 9 degrees above. Things could be worse. #prolifecon
11:43am

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After the event, I was able to spend a few minutes with some of the celebrity guests, including seven-month-old Marcus Duggar, son of Josh and grandson of Jim Bob and Michelle. I was also among those who spoke briefly with Senator Rick Santorum, as he explained the difficulty of appealing to the "social conservative" base of voters who would support a pro-life candidate for high office, citing the tepidity of other such political figures themselves, and the lack of faith in a victory. He pointed out how the field is then carried by a "moderate" candidate, who ends up losing to a more strident, if ideologically opposed (and vehemently pro-abortion) opponent.

All in all, except for a few technical difficulties in the beginning, which were overcome with the kind assistance of the FRC support staff -- Note to self: The operative word at a conference of online activists is "online." -- the day was a success.

And finally, lest we forget, the Gentleman from Maryland, Congressman Andy Harris, gets our Tip of the Black Hat, for being such a good sport.
 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Coming Tomorrow: The “ProLifeCon” Twitcast

That's right, a twitcast. What in Sam Hill would YOU call it?

We will be calling it as we see it, come Wednesday morning, from the ninth annual conference of pro-life bloggers and online social media activists, sponsored by the Family Research Council, which is hosting “ProLifeCon” in conjunction with the annual March for Life. This will be the fifth year we will have hung the Black Hat at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC, where this yearly event takes place.

Speakers will include Jill Stanek (JillStanek.com), Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD), Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and many others, including The Duggar Family, stars of The Learning Channel's “19 Kids and Counting” (which means it may be a little more crowded than usual). We will be sending a continuous stream of messages on Twitter, from approximately 8:15 to 11:30 am. A transcript with commentary will be published in a subsequent post by the following evening. There will also be a live video stream from the conference website.

twitter.com/manwithblackhat. Be there. Aloha.
 

Agnus Dei

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Agnes, a virgin and martyr of the early persecutions. She was put to death after refusing both a marriage proposal from a prominent Roman family (having already consecrated herself to God), and the offering of tribute to the pagan Gods. Her name is mentioned with the other great martyrs of Rome in the Roman Canon.

It is on this feast day, that the Holy Father appears at the Church of Saint Agnes in Rome. There he blesses two lambs, decorated in red (for martyrdom) and white (for purity), traditionally provided by the Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. Then the lambs are taken to the Convent of Saint Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them. The wool sheared from them is used to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and the Archbishops, and which are conferred on new recipients on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the 29th of June. (Image and information courtesy of Fisheaters.com.)

The “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”) is also the name of a popular traditional devotion, in the form of a small medallion, wherein is contained a small amount of wax taken from the previous year's Paschal Candle of the Church of Rome. This practice has fallen into disuse in recent years. Perhaps this would be a good time to revive it.
 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Reverend Doctor King: A Footnote

While researching something else entirely, I came across the following at the website for The Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change (aka “The King Center”), located in Atlanta, Georgia. It received very little attention in the press at the time, possibly overshadowed by events related to the end of a millennium:

After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict, saying:

“There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court's unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law ...

My husband once said: ‘The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury's verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”

If this writer has learned one thing in more than thirty years of living and working in the Nation's capital, it is never to put anything past anybody. For the right price, for the right incentive, most people will do anything, anything at all, and sleep like a baby that night. Some of the "nicest guys" I ever met in this town, are guys I wouldn't trust farther than I could throw them (which is an option I have considered in those cases). It is a sad commentary on the human condition, and yet, if you ever doubt the ability of man to do unspeakable evil without regret, tell that to nearly half a million people who will converge on this city the day after tomorrow.

They don't need convincing. Do you?
 

When Harry Met Reality

Personally, I never watch shows like American Idol. It's bad enough watching some people embarrass themselves, like that one guy who sounded a little too much like Garth Brooks. (Will we see Garth Brooks impersonators in the wake of Elvis impersonators? You decide.) It's also a bit of dissonance when a lily-white boy or girl tries to sing in the style of Negro spirituals.

But none of that compares to the people who judge them.

I mean, seriously, what the hell can Simon Cowell actually do? Does he dance? Can he sing or play a musical instrument? Can he even do card tricks? No, he doesn't do any of that. The guy is a poseur, but he just happens to be really, REALLY good at it. (Notice I didn't say he wasn't any good at it. Did I say he wasn't good at something? Of course not. Anyway ...) The only other thing I can see him being really good at, is leaving his shirt halfway unbuttoned, which really kind of went out of style by the 1980s, unless you're a coming-of-age Italian-American male from New Jersey.

I believe the polite term is "Guido."

But then, there are the young ladies like the one in this video, fifteen years old, with stars in her eyes, who sang Grace Potter's Paris, a song that tells more of a longing for defilement than it does the City of Lights. (You've been warned.) Fortunately, the acclaimed jazz singer/pianist and actor Harry Connick Jr was on the panel. After hearing the young hopeful's selection, her own idol gave her the thumbs up. But then it was Harry's turn.

After J Lo called the performance “Cute”, Harry Connick Jr counseled Morgan that it was important to “find the songs that are right for you” and encouraged her to look for tunes that are age-appropriate, “Cuz hearing about you ‘shaving me smooth’ really was creepin’ me out.” ... J Lo turned to him and said, “You’re such a dad!” with a giggle in her voice.

As a matter of fact, in addition to being a practicing Catholic, Connick is also the father of three daughters, the oldest nearly fourteen. Connick also managed to one-up Australian country singer/songwriter Keith Urban, before all three were called to give the thumbs-up. On the bright side, it's probably a good sign that this season's panel of judges genuinely want to be supportive of anyone who gets up there and takes the risk that they do. (When I auditioned for talent shows and musicals, I had the luxury of hiding behind a guitar. Those were the days ...)

Yesterday's homily, in anticipation of the March For Life, was about Audous Huxley's 1932 dystopian classic Brave New World, depicting the loss of humanity through the mechanization of reproduction, and its separation from the conjugal act, indeed, from marriage and family altogether. A gentleman who spoke to the priest after Mass today told of a class of high school students given the book as required reading, who were unphased by such a civilization as this.

Sometimes “art imitates life” all too well, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (MLK Day Edition)

This week, Uncle Jay explains the phrase people have been throwing around: “Net Neutrality.” Don't worry, it doesn't mean LeBron James had a scary operation. It's all about the internet, and five reasons why this one simple trick that doctors don't want you to know about will have you screaming with laughter at this shocking cat video.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

There's nothing "net neutral" about this! One week ago today, a story broke from the Boston desk of the Associated Press, but was deleted from the web before day's end. Does someone in the mainstream media have something to hide? [Gizmodo]

Meanwhile, here's a man with nothing to hide. In fact, this fellow would have a very hard time hiding anyway, once you got a whiff of him. He's not complaining, though. [The Blaze]

In the past year, there have been reports of bee populations dying in various parts of the world. Maybe that's why we don't hear so much anymore about the killer bees from South America. Meanwhile, in Australia, they want to keep track of all of them. [Gizmodo]

Speaking of keeping track, if you were wondering about the three best states for drinking, unfortunately, Texas isn't one of them. Yeah, I was surprised too. [Time]

Recently, the Pope said that mothers could breastfeed their infants in church now (or something to that effect that usually gets lost in translation), and I'm sure all the nursing mothers out there have been waiting for the go-ahead. But be warned, there are still places where they stand their ground against such an unsavory practice, including ... [Catholic Fire]

And speaking of irony, a teenaged girl felt "degraded" when a male student in her aikido class requested a degree of separation to avoid touching females on religious grounds. After all, every little girl dreams of one day growing up and being thrown around by a man in a dojo. [National Post]

Finally, here's a video clip showing what London looked like in 1927, compared to the present day. Notice what has changed, and what has stayed the same. (Yeah, that's the idea.) [Gizmodo]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

FAMW: Live Free and High!

By now, a number of the several States have defied the potential challenge from federal courts to legalize marijuana, whether for medicinal use, or for, uh, "medicinal" use. In fact, this writer wanted to procure a stash for his parents for their fiftieth anniversary back in 2002, given Dad's final stages of MS, and Mom's arthritis. The proposal alone was, shall we say, therapeutic.

In the face of New Hampshire's own attempt to give the go to the grass being (potentially?) blocked in federal appeals court, Steven Crowder paid a visit to the Granite State (where the motto is “Live Free or Die”) to find out what people on the street thought of the idea. The results couldn't be better for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

(H/T to Ed Morrissey.)
 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Gregory Brothers “Wrecking Ball”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The Gregory Brothers -- that would be Evan, Andrew, and Michael, but without Evan's wife Sarah, remember them? -- add their “high lonesome sound” from southwestern Virginia to a recent single by Miley Cyrus. That little corner of the Old Dominion which is the birthplace of country music is strictly a twerk-free zone, so gather 'round the video, and prepare yourself not to be violently ill.

(H/T to Rosemary Norris Holland.)
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Uncle Jay (Eventually!) Explains

Apparently, this was posted last night. Why didn't we catch this in time for our usual Monday morning feature? Probably because our crackerjack production team here at l’homme avec le chapeau noir did a search on YouTube, rather than check the subscription column on the left side of the page. This is what happens when you get cheap help.

You see, dear minions, ometimes the news is harder to swallow than the water in West Virginia, and harder to plow through than the George Washington Bridge, even harder to keep a grip on than a Target credit card. That's why we have veteran Cincinnati radio personality “Uncle Jay” Gilbert (also winner of the 2000 Marconi Award for "Personality of the Year") explain the down low, so that yours truly personally doesn't have to. After all, reading all these blogs and news sites can really cut into the day job.

Yeah, you right!
 

Plowing Through Monday

We mentioned "Plough Monday" earlier today, didn't we?

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following Epiphany. This was when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work. John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?

“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.

They could do worse.
 

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Plough Monday Edition)

With the coming of the new year, it is only fair to warn you, dear reader, of what the government is prepared to do to protect you from yourself, starting this month. After all, have you looked in the mirror lately? Yeah, pretty scary. That face at the other end could end up falling for incandescent light bulbs, plastic grocery bags, horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park (since after all, nothing is sacred), tanning salons, and ... shark fins???

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

In the event of another cold snap, you will have yet another opportunity to conduct a silly-@$$ science experiment, one less dangerous then throwing boiling water into the air without checking the wind direction first. [Distractify]

Speaking of weird science, did you know that dogs can sense the earth's magnetic field? It sounds impressive, until you learn how they use it. Still might come in handy, though. [The Guardian]

When you're the pope, you get a really sweet ride. This new guy is just now figuring out that riding the bus isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when your buds come into town. [Catholic News Agency]

If you're looking for a unique place to retire, there's a town in California that could sure use the company. With less than eight hundred people, you could probably run for mayor the first year, since everyone else has already had their turn. [Slate]

When you get there, you'll need a place to live. Make sure you load your 3-d printer into the back of your pickup truck, and ... well, just look at what 24 hours can do. [MSN/Innovation]

Some of us like anchovies in our pizza, and some of us will tolerate anything but anchovies. Find out the latest acquired taste in pizza toppings before you make that next call. [NY Daily News]

And finally, speaking of haute cuisine, watch this guy show you how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. (Wish I'd known this when I was on the road. The budget motels don't always have corkscrews handy, you know?) [Mirabeau en Provence]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Till We Have Built Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?


It has been the dream of devout Catholics, convinced by the knowledge that the western world is seeing a repeat of Rome before the fall. With a culture becoming increasingly hostile, not only to Catholicism, but to Christianity in general, even the very idea of faith in God over that of Mammon, they are torn between the call to be a witness to the world, and to shut themselves in isolated places, away from the maddening crowd.

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?


Milton was an epic poem written by William Blake (1757-1827) between 1804 and 1810. Its hero, John Milton, offered his reflections upon his return from Heaven. A line from one of its extracts is the title of a book about a proposal for changing the culture through architecture and the new urbanism. Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred, written by architect Philip Bess, makes the case for traditional architecture and urbanism and their role in the uplifting of culture, through the sustaining of traditional towns and city neighborhoods, as opposed to the suburban sprawl of the last half century or more, which has only served to alienate humanity, thus stifling the culture and enabling consumerist excess.

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!


In the coming year, this venue will present ideas proposed by architects and planners along the lines of the above, as well as instances where living in the world, if not of it, through relationships built in neighborhoods, has borne fruit that is waiting to be discovered and proliferated.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.


It was Sir William Churchill who once said that "we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us."
 

Friday, January 10, 2014

FAMW: Fun and Games in the Polar Vortex

We all know what the weather's been like in much of North America this past week, don't we? Well, in a place like Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, where it can get down to -30C (-22F), scenes like this can go viral for everybody else, as boiling water is thrown into the air and instantly becomes steam. Of course, you'll want to check for which way the wind is blowing first, or it won't have nearly as happy an ending, as with this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.
 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

My Y2K Moment

Lately I have become interested in emergency preparedness and survival techniques. The good thing about such a skill set, is being ready for anything. The bad thing about such a skill set, is attracting others who are ready for anything, including those who are a little too ready. You know who I'm talking about; the "doomsday preppers." If you've reached the age of majority by now, you are old enough to remember what didn't happen when 1999 became 2000. Of course, it was a great time for COBOL programmers -- people who knew the language of the old mainframes that still held much critical information, but were supposed to go dead the moment the clocks turned over -- but other than that ...

It was New Year's Eve in 1999. I was invited to a special black-tie dinner by our then-communications director. It was strictly a private affair, so your tax dollars didn't pay for it. This gal I was seeing at the time was all set to introduce Mr Wonderful (that would be me) to her friends in the coming weeks, but you wouldn't know it by the look on her when I came to the door. Something was up, but I tried not to notice. (I'll get back to that.) But it was hard not to notice the wonderful full-course dinner we had. This was my first such affair. I hadn't seen this many pieces of silverware in my life outside of where it's stored.

You have to remember that I come from people whose place settings only had one fork, even when the good china was brought out. It's one thing to have a separate soup spoon, because you need that big one to, you know, eat soup. But two forks? What would be the points? (Get it? Points?) Now, imagine seeing three of them, among other things. As for the night in question, what did all those pieces do? Well, someone just said to start from the outside and work your way in. That did the trick. For more details, I obtained this handy illustration from Fatima and Andrew Spoor. Keep this handy in the photo gallery of your smartphone, and you'll always know which implement to use next.

What happened to the one that got away? Well, once the clocks turned over and our computers didn't all die on us, she dumped me two days later. I found out about two weeks after that, that she was already making time with an old flame of hers for nearly two months. He was in a high position in a cabinet-level department right across the street, and the whole Y2K thing was the occasion for their meeting up again. And again. And again. What made it worse was that we both worked in the same agency, the same communications office. I wasn't just dumped; I was publicly humiliated. I remember sending her a long, heartfelt letter in the spring of that year, telling her of how these things tend to revisit you at your own expense. Two weeks after that, she discovered she was in the latter stages of cancer. She passed away by summer's end.

That wasn't what I wished for her, obviously, but I remember how bitter I was at the time, and how I considered it a form of poetic justice. Not only is that a rather cruel thing, but it presumes to know too much of what the Almighty has in store for us. We see so little of the big picture. We need to dust ourselves off, and move on. Somewhere in the greater scheme of things, there was then, and is now, a reason.

So eventually I did move on.

Most of the good things that have happened to me in my life, have been in the last ten years. For all my good fortune, I never forget how fragile the human condition can be, and how, as Old Blue Eyes used to say:

“Life is like the seasons. After winter comes the spring. So I'll say a little prayer, and see what tomorrow brings.”

Oh, and when the old homestead was sold last year, guess who got the good silverware.
 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “The Battle of New Orleans”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

On this day, exactly one hundred and ninety-nine years ago, the final major conflict of the War of 1812 took place, as American forces under the command of Colonel Andrew Jackson (later the seventh President of the United States, from 1829 to 1837), defeated the larger and more disciplined British Army led by General Edward Pakenham, thus securing possession of the "Louisiana Purchase," that vast midsection only recently having been purchased from France, of what later became the rest of the "lower forty-eight" United States.

The battle was remembered in an Irish fiddle tune renamed on this side of the Atlantic as “The 8th of January,” to which lyrics were set by an Arkansas high school history teacher and part-time musician named Jimmie Driftwood in 1945, as a means of instructing his students. Although he did manage to record it in 1958, the best-known rendering was that of country singer Johnny Horton, whose own recording in 1959 won the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country And Western Performance.

In the course of making the song famous, Horton left out some of the more -- shall we say? -- colorful verses, including numbers two, three, and seven.

Well, I see'd Mars Jackson walkin down the street
talkin' to a pirate by the name of Jean Lafitte [La-FEET]
He gave Jean a drink that he brung from Tennessee
and the pirate said he'd help us drive the British in the sea.

The French said Andrew, you'd better run,
for Packingham's a comin' with a bullet in his gun.
Old Hickory said he didn't give a damn,
he's gonna whip the britches off of Colonel Packingham.
We'll march back home but we'll never be content
till we make Old Hickory the people's President.
And every time we think about the bacon and the beans,
we'll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.

The first clip is Horton's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, but the full version can be heard sung by Driftwood in the second clip. His guitar was made by his grandfather, and he used it from his childhood days throughout his life. Driftwood said that its neck was made from a fence rail, its sides from an old ox yoke, and the head and bottom from the headboard of his grandmother's bed.

Now that's what I call a history lesson.
 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

“Old Calendar” Christmas

Today, many Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians, who still follow the Julian Calendar (now running thirteen days behind the newer and more accurate Gregorian Calendar), will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. This is particularly the case in parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and with "Old Calendar" jurisdictions here in North America (such as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia).

It is surely advantageous to do your last-minute shopping when everyone else is finished, but it is otherwise a truly counter-cultural practice.

Here we feature a collection of Slavic Christmas hymns, sung in both English and Slavonic.

Christos Razdajetsja!
    Christ is born!

Slavite Jeho!
    Glorify him!
 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Christus Mansionem Benedicat!

VIDEO: A 2008 performance of "March of the Kings" ("Marche Des Rois") by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, Vermont.

+    +    +

The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)

At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.

+    +    +

We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":

Give the King your justice, O God, *
    and your righteousness to the King's son;

That he may rule your people righteously *
    and the poor with justice.

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
    and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people; *
    he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
    from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
    like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
    there shall be abundance of peace
        till the moon shall be no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea, *
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

His foes shall bow down before him, *
    and his enemies lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
    and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

All kings shall bow down before him, *
    and all the nations do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
    and the oppressed who has no helper.

He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
    he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
    and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
    and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
        may prayer be made for him always,
            and may they bless him all the day long.

May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
    growing thick even on the hilltops; *
        may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
            and its grain like grass upon the earth.

May his Name remain for ever
    and be established as long as the sun endures; *
        may all the nations bless themselves in him
            and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen.

Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)

          C

“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“Throughout the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and the many years to come.”

20      C      M      B      14

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      14

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      14

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      14

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  14

The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.

+    +    +

For those who require a simpler form, there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Rensselaer, New York. It came in handy one year, when I was alone and the weather was particularly inclement, and I simply read from the Gospel of John as I inscribed over the door ...

In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)

and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)

and the Word was God. (inscribe +)

He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)

All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)

and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)

And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)

and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)

and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)

the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 4)

Then with the Holy Water, I made the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” and calling it a night.

+    +    +

Meanwhile, the day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, and pageants for the children. An example of the latter is seen here, performed by Iglesia Smirna Misionera, an Assembly of God congregation in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Oh, come on, you guys, click on it. These kids worked SO hard on this.
 

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Tres Reyes Edition)

In the Irish neighborhood of South Boston, they welcomed the new year by taking the "polar bear plunge" in to the Dorchester Bay for the 111th time. In an unrelated story, a mother in Georgia shot a home invader, shedding new light on the gun control debate. (See video.) Even the new police chief in Detroit is telling citizens to start packing -- not to leave town, but by carrying a gun. In Colorado, they welcomed the new year by legalizing marijuana.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth.

Speaking of getting high, here's how dolphins do it. Fortunately, puffer fish are already legal. [The Independent]

If you go to Colorado and secure a stash yourself to take out of state, that would be illegal, of course. Some people would put a secret compartment in their car, but be advised that the police are already on to that idea, whether you use it for that reason or not. [CNS News]

Of course, once you get high, you'll want to get high more often, and you'll start doing things like giving weird names to your kids. You'll need a guide for that. [Jezebel]

For those old-fashioned types who would settle for getting high on beer, it's still possible to get a good buzz, enough to take it personally if you're from Alabama, and Oklahoma's football team is whooping your beloved 'Bama Boys. See how one fine young Southern belle made the South rise again. Watch it repeatedly on the image here, or click on the link to see the video of 'Bama Girl in action. [Clash Daily]

Finally, and speaking of catfights, we remember Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and "the whack heard around the world," twenty years to the day after it happened. [MLive]

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, and the coming year along with it, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Christ-Mass: Twelfth Night

Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

Old Christmas
    is past
Twelfth Night
    is the last

And we bid
    you adieu
Praise joy
    to the new.


(H/T to Steeleye Span.)
 

Christ-Mass: Day 12 (Not Epiphany)

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

Today, as mentioned earlier, the traditional Roman calendar observes the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus*, while the reformed Roman calendar observes either (universally) the Second Sunday After Christmas, or (in the Dioceses of the USA and elsewhere) the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Why the latter, you ask?

This is a judgment by a competent territorial body of bishops. In this instance, the term "competent" is used guardedly. You see, they think you are entirely too lazy to celebrate anything on a weekday. So they make it convenient for you. They would probably provide drive-thru confessions, and probably had to ignore the advice of an army of lawyers and "risk assessment specialists" to pass on the idea. Perhaps once we succeed in converting the culture for Christ, they'll move Christmas to a Sunday as well, to coordinate our schedules with the department stores. Almost seems worth it, right?

We can say all we want about "the reason for the season" and "keeping Christ in Christmas" and all that. But such festivity presumes a priority attached to, and a meaning for, sacred time. We can assure ourselves that "our bishops know what they're doing." But how can something be sacred if we can bend it and twist it to suit our convenience?

And that's when you gotta ask, do they really know what they're doing?

When I was growing up back in Ohio, our town had a unique way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They'd take them to some field at the edge of town, stack them in a big pile, and commemorate "Twelfth Night" with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." Of course, my parents didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen. These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality: "Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch."

Now that kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the gifts of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading them on your lawn or walking all over them?

Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we have celebrated Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Still, there is a great temptation to take down the lights already, to put the decorations back in storage until the season returns, and to send the dying tree to its final resting place.

But before that happens, we go back to work on Monday, and life continues to slowly return to normal.

Finally, in the traditional Roman calendar, the fifth of January is when the Church remembers Saint Telesphorus, elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later. The reformed Roman calendar honors Saint John Neumann, the native of Bohemia who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.

* At one time combined with the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1, before the 1913 calendar reforms of Pope Pius X, thus the revisionist conspiracy is even worse than many are led to believe.