Thursday, June 30, 2005

Radio Daze

Since 1971, WVXU-FM has operated out of the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati. Beginning with a handful of students operating with ten watts, it has expanded to 26,000 watts, and has since added remote translators throughout southern Ohio and beyond, to become The X-Star Radio Network. Rolling past Columbus toward my old stomping grounds, I could be treated to an eclectic mix of big-band, old-time radio drama, ambient/new age, and acoustic singer/songwriters.

Alas, a change was in the wind earlier this spring, when XU decided to cash in their assets for expansion elsewhere, by selling the network to WGUC, Cincinnati's flagship public radio outlet. Today is the last day of a great show called "Audiosyncrasies." A live webcast can be accessed through the X-Star website.

What happens after today is not clear. At least not to me. But as more and more public radio stations forsake good imaginative programming for endless news and yada yada yada, we live for today while it is still with us.
You know, I never really thought of it this way.
Done With Mirrors

This is the primiere entry last fall for a weblog of the above name, in which a small-town reporter reflects on his own place in the media machine, and how it has exploded in recent years -- particularly with the medium that you are reading now:
In the 1960s, with only three network channels and international print coverage in America driven almost entirely by the AP, UPI, and the New York Times, the worldview of the majority of Americans could be shaped by a few twitches in the top newsrooms.

Now, you get the Internet. You get Fox News. You get NPR. You get Radio America. Hell, you can all but duplicate my copy desk job of sorting through the AP wire and the AP photo desk; it's all online. I'm waiting for the day my boss figures out that all this material, for which we pay tens of thousands of dollars per year as a "member" of the Associated Press, is available for free to anyone with a laptop and a phone jack.

But that's the rub. Most people don't have four hours a day to sort through the AP, Reuters, AFP wires and photo desks. They'll pay 50 cents for a newspaper, or sit through 10 minutes of dull TV commercials, for the sake of letting someone do it for them.
And so it goes.
The Eternal Question

First in a continuing series...

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: As for the ambulatory chicken, a lot depends on the creature’s motivation at the time (instinct, really, but some chickens seem so human), the context or premise that sets up the punchline, and many possible word plays that produce risibility at the close of the answer.

(Attributed to Patrick Coffin)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Today is the birthday of Murray Foster. The bass player for the now-defunct-if-not-merely-lying-in-wait Toronto-based band Moxy Früvous now plays for the Newfoundland-based buncha yahoos collectively known as Great Big Sea. Remarkably, MF gained a bit of a cult following in North America during the 1990s, starting out as a merry band of buskers on the streets of Toronto, and staying together for nearly a decade without personnel changes, or killing each other while on the road. Among the many "Fruheads" were me and my son Paul. The latter earned the nickname "Virtual Boy" after their appearance at the Birchmere.

More about the "Boy" another day. More about Canada in two days.
"He who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through [Paul] also for the Gentiles." (Gal 2:8)

Today the Church celebrates The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. They are remembered together as the "pillars of the Church." The feast also has special significance in recent years, as it has been a day when the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople meets with the Holy Father to pray for the unity of East and West.

For this year, there is a Solemn Mass of the Feast, during which time Benedict XVI will bless and impose the pallium on 32 newly-appointed Metropolitan Archbishops.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

This week's Tip of the Black Hat...

...goes to this guy!

"The supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent: for the preservation of property is the end of government. Hence it is a mistake to think, that the supreme or legislative power of any commonwealth, can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily." -- John Locke

"That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest." -- James Madison

''The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.'' -- Sandra Day O'Connor
Who be da man???

Right now there's a fascinating discussion over at on "the vice of effeminacy," specifically as it affects the Catholic priesthood. You'll see my comments in there as well.

When I was a boy, we had a young curate at our parish named "Father K." The pastor was an Irish-German known for fire-and-brimstone homilies, but K was tall, thin, slight of build, and soft-spoken. The story goes that one night, there was a knock at the rectory door. K opened it, to see a man with a gun informing him that this was a hold-up, and demanding money. Without batting an eye, K responded, "Oh, don't be ridiculous," and slammed the door in the guy's face.

Did I mention he could sink a basketball from thirty yards away?
Coming in December...

King Kong returns to the silver screen.

The movie!

The trailer!! *


Stay tuned for the next trailer... and the storyboard.

Oh boy!

* UPDATE: Choose soundtrack in English, German, or Spanish. Kong goes global.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Near the End of June

I've spent the last week upgrading my hardware at the office, from the Macintosh G4 to a G5. The latter performs about twice as fast. But it's been sitting in boxes for the last six months at least. I'm the second-to-the-last guy in my division to do the upgrade. The file transfer is complete. It's now just a matter of switching the network cables over, and software registration/verifications, and the like. Virtual paperwork, essentially.

The weekend was three nights of zydeco in a row. That hasn't happened in awhile. Thank God CJ Chenier hasn't devolved into a "show band" -- the kind you can't dance to anymore 'cuz they get paid just as much to play for a crowd of drunks. Last night we went up to Baltimore to The Cat's Eye Pub in Fells Point. It was Sal's first experience there, and my first in quite a while.

"Don Jim" Tucker is back, and has been blogging up a storm over the weekend. He's got some great stuff up.

A good vacation can do that for a man.

Friday, June 24, 2005

“As I went down to the river to pray, studyin’ about that good old way...”

Today the Christian church remembers the Nativity of John the Baptist. In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) reflects on this day in relation to the seasons:
"Between the two dates of March 25 and December 25 comes the feast of the Forerunner, St John the Baptist, on June 24, at the time of the summer solstice. The link between the dates can now be seen as a liturgical and cosmic expression of the Baptist's words: 'He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease' (Jn 3:30). The birthday of St John the Baptist takes place on the date when the days begin to shorten, just as the birthday of Christ takes place when they begin again to lengthen. The fabric of this feast is of an entirely Christian weave, without direct precedent in the Old Testament. However, it stands in continuity with the synthesis of cosmos and history..."
Meanwhile, The Old Farmer's Almanac provides another connection with the feast, in the form of "Midsummer's Day."

I suppose it's by some coincidence, that today was also a day for gathering by the water -- if closer to home.

It seems that the side entrance of my building this morning was the haven for a mother duck and ten ducklings. This little-used foyer was a stopping point headed south on the sidewalks, which by now were becoming quite active. I went up to the office after informing the front desk (expecting the Park Service to send someone to retrieve what amounted to Government property), when my colleague "Melanie" got excited at the prospect of seeing her little brood.

So we went down to where they were, just in time to see Mother Duck on the move. Being disoriented by the attention on the sidewalk, and surrounded by two people taking pictures with their cellphones, Melanie and I proceed to coax the family down the sidewalk, south toward the reflecting pool in the park just south of the building.

But first, we had to cross E Street. The cars were generally cooperative. Getting Mama's trust was the hard part. It got even harder when we got to the curb. We had to get the ducklings up the curb, which was taller than them, and had not been able to convince Mama of our goodwill. So, while Melanie created a distraction by getting Mother to attack her, I picked each of the ducklings onto the sidewalk. The worst being over, Mother went back to her charges to lead them down the final stretch, to the reflecting pool.

And so, with our task completed, and Melanie being none the worst for wear -- which is saying something, because Mama got after me too at one point, and it wasn't pretty -- we returned to our more conventional job.

Ah, just another day at the office!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dear Tech Support:

Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing that took up a lot of space and valuable resources.  In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs and now monitors all other system activity.  Applications such as Poker Night 10.3, Football 5.0, Hunting and Fishing 7.5, and Racing 3.6, no longer run; crashing the system whenever selected.
I can't seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications!  I'm thinking about going back to Girlfriend 7.0, but the un-install doesn't work on Wife 1.0.  Please Help!


Dear Troubled User:

This is a very common problem that men complain about.

Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is just a Utilities and Entertainment program. Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING!!! It is impossible to un-install, or purge the program files from the system once installed. You cannot go back to girlfriend 7.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed to not allow this.

Look in your Wife 1.0 manual under Warnings-Alimony-Child Support. I recommend that you keep Wife 1.0 and work on improving the situation. I suggest installing the background application "Yes Dear" to alleviate software augmentation.

The best course of action is to enter the command C:\APOLOGIZE because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance. Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean and Sweep 3.0, Cook It 1.5 and Do Bills 4.2.

However, be very careful how you use these programs. Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Nag Nag 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Flowers 2.1 and Diamonds 5.0!

WARNING!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Secretary With Short Skirt 3.3. This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system.

Best of luck... Tech Support

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Somebody... Tag Me!

Summer (now officially here) has been identified as that time of year when people catch up on reading those books they've been meaning to crack open... and hopefully, read. One of the current recreations in the Catholic blogosphere has been to cite one's own plans, then "tag" a short list of colleagues to do the same.

Apparently, life is making up for when I was a kid and kept being "it" for too long, 'cuz I haven't been "tagged" yet. Obviously, I'm gonna have to tag my d@#n self!

The first three on my list are Ratzinger books. Since this new pope has nary an unpublished thought, it's not that hard to find out where he's coming from.

1) My first is, as mentioned last week, The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI (Ignatius). This work is inspired by the book by Romano Guardini: "My purpose here is to assist this renewal of understanding of the Liturgy. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War, in a totally different historical situation, into the context of our present-day questions, hopes and dangers. Like Guardini, I am not attempting to involve myself with scholarly discussion and research. I am simply offering an aid to the understanding of the faith and to the right way to give the faith its central form of expression in the Liturgy." It helps that I'm participating in a discussion on the book in my parish.

2) Next is Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, an interview of Ratzinger conducted by the German journalist Peter Seewald (Ignatius). I'll most likely be "reading" the audiobook version produced by St Joseph Communications. This is a penetrating look at the man who would be Pope, interviewed a decade ago about his life, his world, his philosophy, spirituality, cosmology -- just getting into the man's head. Seewald was unchurched before the interview. He later converted. Go figure.

3) Finally on the Ratzinger partion of our list is Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today (Ignatius). This is a primer on ecclesiology, the nature of the Church, interwoven with the reality of the Eucharist as its center. With respect to how the Church is constituted, he also provides some insights into possible future directions.

4) Moving out of the First Estate, we come to Designing with Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman (New Riders). He states his premise thus: "You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again." He goes on to make the case for universal standards. Yeah, I know about that alright, having had to re-invent the wheel over the course of the past year by going from straight HTML to XHTML with attached cascading style sheets (CSS). I suppose when I return in the fall they'll have some more suprises for me. (Let me guess: XML, right?)

5) Deep Community: Adventures in the Modern Folk Underground, by Scott Alarik (Black Wolf Press), is a collection of over a hundred interviews spanning a decade by this music critic for the Boston Globe. I've been playing music for nearly forty years now. Keeping up on the adventures of those who image their inner muse for a living, I get in touch with a latent part of myself. Covers both traditionalist-revivalists and pioneers of new genre such as "Afro-Celtic." The well-established, the up-and-coming, and the obscure. Not just the artists themselves, but radio programmers, stage promoters, folklorists, and others who are part of the scene.

6) The "folk underground" in Cincinnati is one of the things I miss about that city. It's not as big as DC's, but it's more accessible, and to this day I remain in touch with kindred spirits there. That's why I look forward to the impending release of Old-time Music And Dance: Community And Folk Revival, by John Bealle (Quarry Press). He narrates the history of the nearby Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group, from its beginnings in 1972 to the present.

7) If the above can't hit the streets by summer's end, there's always a similar tale closer to my home away from home. Dancing Away An Anxious Mind: A Memoir About Overcoming Panic Disorder, by Robert Rand, is an account of embracing the music and dance of Louisiana in suburban DC in the 1990s. This was before the action moved to Baltimore (well, most of it, anyway...), and a preliminary glance through its pages harkens memories of my misspent youth (otherwise known as my early post-marital phase). I was hoping to do a review of this work anyway.

8) Finally, there has to be at least one work of fiction. My choice is American Empire: Victorious Opposition, by Harry Turtledove. It's one of those "what-if" scenarios, as a very different America stands at the verge of World War II; less than a century earlier, the South had won the Civil War. The story follows its characters in a Confederacy which resembles early Nazi Germany, with a "final solution" at the expense of those Blacks still remaining there. The USA has occupied part of Canada, France still has a King, and... well, stay tuned.
"Some people have something to say, while others have to say something."

Thus I began this weblog three years ago today.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day

Mine was like most others. The most work I did that day was reading my Ratzinger book for the parish discussion group (see earlier entry). "Sal" took me to brunch at a restaurant on the DC waterfront. Then we went home and spent the afternoon watching movies, including What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson, which she just assumes I had never seen before. Go figure. Early in the evening, I indulged a craving for pizza. Then I fell asleep on the couch watching Jackie Chan.

"And on the seventh day, God rested."
Tech Talk

(Cute title, huh?)

There have been some new developments in the technology field lately. Here are a few of them.

• Pac-Man is 25. A designer at the Japanese company Namco, Toru Iwatani, was inspired by a pizza missing a slice. Originally called Puck-Man, the name was changed when brought to the USA in 1980. Already begetting a romantic interest (Ms Pac-Man), an offspring (Junior Pac-Man), and a pop music hit ("Pac-Man Fever" by Buckner and Garcia in 1982), the company has further variations on a theme for this year, including "Pac-Mania 3D" and a silver anniversary edition of the original. (AP)

• College graduates who used to flock to high-tech jobs are now dwindling in numbers. It seems that many positions are now being shipped overseas. "The research firm Gartner Inc predicts that up to 15 percent of tech workers will drop out of the profession by 2010. Within the same period, worldwide demand for technology developers is forecast to shrink by 30 percent." (AP)

• Mauritius expect by early 2006 to become the first nation with coast-to-coast wireless Internet coverage. Located off the eastern coast of Africa, the island nation is forty miles long. (Chicago Tribune)

• CVS Pharmacy has introduced a disposable video camera that records for twenty minutes, with results printed on a DVD. That twenty continuous minutes. No pause or stop button. (CVS)

And finally...

• I'm among the last people in my office to upgrade from a Macintosh G4 to a G5. This includes a new monitor that will take up less than half the space of the behemoth I currently use. Conversion is slated for later this week. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

School's out!

My last class was today. I never did well in spring quarter the last time I was in college. And this time around, my GPA is definitely going to drop below 4.0. But I've still got a shot at graduating with honors.

Meanwhile, my parish is having a new series of "Thursday Night Theology." We're going to study The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (better known in the present as Pope Benedict XVI). I've been looking for an excuse to add a few of his titles to my summer reading list anyway.

+ + +

And with that, I'm off for a three-day weekend. Nothin' special, just a little family business. Till I'm back in the saddle again, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

•  It's a California thing, right? Michael Jackson's lawyer said Tuesday that the pop star is going to be more careful from now on and not let children into his bed anymore because "it makes him more vulnerable to false charges." So, that's what they call "reasonable doubt."

•  Wow, this is more cool than playing cops and robbers! A five-year old boy in Raipur, India, reports to the police station every morning to do filing and serve tea. It seems that when government employees die while in service, a family member can take over their job. His most notable achievement to date has been learning to sign his name for endorsing his paycheck. (Courtesy UPI)

•  I told you never to call me here!!! The president of Indonesia was addressing a group of farmers and fishermen in a little town, when he gave them his cell phone number to call with any concerns they might have. The meeting was immediately broadcast nationwide, and within minutes his phone was inundated with messages.

•  When once is not enough... A woman in Bethlehem, PA, recently won a million dollars in the state lottery -- for the second time in five months. (Courtesy UPI)

•  We'll always have Paris -- both of them. Paris Hilton has told Newsweek that she's staying out of the public eye for two years, to devote herself to family life with fiance Paris Latsis. "I don't enjoy going out anymore... It's such a pain. It's everyone saying, 'Let's do a deal! Can I have a picture?' I'm just, like, 'These people are such losers. I can't believe I used to love doing this.'" So, following you around makes them losers, which makes you...

(From the wires of the Associated Press, unless otherwise noted.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


On this day in 1952, my parents were married.

Today will be like any other day. Mom will get Dad up around mid-morning, spend over an hour getting him cleaned up and dressed (a home health care aide bathes him a few days a week), and shortly before noon they'll have breakfast. For about two hours after that, Mom will run errands or do housework while Dad sits in his easy chair and reads the newspaper. Early in the afternoon, Mom will slide him into his wheelchair and take him to lunch. Then it's back to the easy chair for a few more hours of contemplation. Early in the evening, there's dinner, followed by over an hour of news programming. Shortly thereafter is the ritual of putting Dad to bed.

Someone in the family comes nearly every day. (Yours truly is the exception, as the only one to leave the Cincinnati area. I guess that makes me "the lost child," huh?) Once a week in the summer, one of the grandsons comes out to mow the lawn. I offered to buy Mom one of those robotic lawnmowers, but she is content with the current arrangement. I even offered to get a radio-control variety, so they could all stay indoors and make some sport out of it. She has proven unyielding.

This is just the stuff I can mention without getting my @$$ chewed out.
What were these people thinking???

Listen to them rationalize their decision, then discuss. (RealPlayer required.) Meanwhile, Amy Welborn hits the nail on the head.

Monday, June 13, 2005

"A Rose by any other name would still..."


Michael Rose is the author of the critique of modern church architecture, Ugly As Sin, as well as the exposé on the heterodox subculture in the Catholic vocations system, Goodbye Good Men. He has also, for the past several years, maintained an internet news site known as CruxNews, which has long appeared in the Links column on the right side of this site.

Starting today, Cruxnews is merging with a new and much-enhanced website for that feisty periodical The New Oxford Review.

NOR was founded in 1977 as an Anglo-Catholic periodical by... well, an Anglican, this one named Dale Vree. The magazine followed him and his family after he "swam the Tiber" and reconciled with Rome in 1983. Since then, free of sponsorship by religious orders, mainstream Catholic publishing, or other manifestations of the ring-kissing, boot-licking status quo, NOR has been content to give its readership the straight skinny, regardless of the cost. And it has cost them -- both membership in the Catholic Press Association, and more recently, a listing on some Catholic periodical library index, the name of which escapes me. (Must not have been very important. Sigh...)

Alas, Michael has not been spared the slings and arrows of the Usual Gang of Idiots. Even those who knew damn well to agree with him about the gist of Goodbye Good Men, had too much invested in loyalty to the religious orders that keep their presses humming, or associations with golf-club-swinging, thousand-dollar-a-plate-dinner-grubbing, papal-knighthood-wannabe types, to get wise to what he had to say.

Cowards, all of them!

And so, two kindred spirits are joined. And for those of you who have more magazines piled around the house than you know what to do with once you're done reading them (Who, me? Perish the thought...), NOR is available for online subscription. Michael still gives the same hard-hitting stuff for which he is famous. And NOR gives you just enough of their articles and continuous polemics (not for the faint of heart) to make you beg for more.

And so, when I get around to it, look for "New Oxford Review" to replace "CruxNews" at stage right.

In alphabetical order, of course.

Today is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. One of the most popular figures of Catholic devotion (if the number of statues produced of a friar holding the Child Jesus are any indication) I wrote about this feast day two years ago. Meanwhile, a magazine from back home in Cincinnati known as the St Anthony Messenger, does the job for me this year.

By now this has appeared elsewhere in the Catholic blogosphere, but former pro-life activist/hellraiser Julianne Wiley sent me this by e-mail over the weekend. It seems a composer of "urban street poetry" (otherwise known as "rap" or "hip-hop"), by the name of Nick Cannon, has penned a work dedicated to young mothers facing crisis pregnancies entitled "Can I Live?".

Dom can dig it. Sort of.

Meanwhile, it seems that Cannon has also made a personal crusade of this, as his remarks in his comments box will attest:
"This record is extremely important to me and to our community. There are a lot of young mothers in need and have had to struggle to raise their children. I just wanted to recognize all the strong women who are raising children on their own like my mother had to do. Myself and my foundation really want to help these young women. If any of you out there know a single mother between the ages of 15-25 who may be having a difficult time I would love to hear the story. Please write to me and explain the condition and how I could possibly help. I will check the website and respond accordingly."
I'm down with it alright. Yeah, you right.
"Be it ever so humble..."

The cover story for the June 13 issue of Time magazine is entitled: "Home $weet Home: Why we're going gaga over real estate." (See my personal gaga in my entry of June 7.) Of special note is the diagrammatic profile of one block of Chicago, namely the 1700 block of North Wood Street. One house more than doubled in value in just under a decade. It's worse in some parts of the DC area. One owner laments the dramatic jump in property taxes. Elsewhere in the piece is a sidebar on "the case for renting." This I gotta see.
Have Cassock and Surplice, Will Travel

Last Saturday I played the palace. That is to say, I served Mass at The Basilica of the National Shrine, in the Crypt Church. The occasion was for an annual provincial gathering of Third Order Dominicans. I almost had a chance to serve for the Cardinal the following day in the Main Church. This could turn out to be more fun than the Old Latin Mass, from which I retired last fall. Long story. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ad Random

Recently, the Washington Post did a four-part series on the state of the Metrorail system entitled "Off the Rails." Staff writers Jo Becker and Lyndsey Layton were online this past Tuesday for a discussion on the series. A transcript is available. I've been using the system for most of the nearly 25 years I've lived here. It is a matter of both practicality and principle that I use public transportation. On those occasions when I am on the Capital Beltway during rush hour, nearly all the cars I see have only one person riding in them. This includes big-@$$ SUVs, as well as those really big-@$$ Hummers. It is a shame that this country does not put more effort into railways as a form of safe, reliable transportation. Most countries have good systems in place, and nearly all are state-subsidized to some degree. The problem in the USA is that our transportation infrastructure (and by extension, the lobbying efforts on the Hill) are centered around the automobile. Since the end of World War II, we have become slaves to our cars. Our local system would benefit from considering dedicated rails for buses for any future extensions. It's more flexible, more reliable, and less costly. Unfortunately, it's not conventional thinking. The planners are not out of the woods yet; they may already be out of their minds.

Elsewhere in Washington, there's a lot of buzz about Cardinal McCarrick's impending retirement as Archbishop of Washington; in particular, who his replacement will be. Vaticanisti lists five possibilities; Edwin O'Brien (Military Archdiocese), William Lori (Bridgeport), Charles Chaput (Denver), Raymond Burke (St Louis), and John Foley (Pontifical Council for Social Communications). Personally, I'd like to see Archbishop Chaput in the position. He's a good straightforward speaker, and is not afraid to buck the secular status quo in favor of the Gospel. Rocky Mountain News reports that he'd prefer to pass if offered the position. (I've heard that before.) Burke has also demonstrated those characteristics, particularly with respect to pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion. Lori knows this area, having served the late Cardinal Hickey in the past, and he would be a good and safe choice; then again, haven't we had plenty of those already? Whoever gets the nod, success in a less-visible position doesn't always transfer over into the big time. That's why I think people who favor Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, for the see in Washington are a bit naive. Being in a remote location allows him some freedom in speaking his mind so boldly, without having to look over his shoulder so much.

I was just informed today of the death of the Trappist monk Basil Pennington. He was recovering from a serious auto accident this past April, and fell asleep in the Lord just two weeks ago, during the chanting of solemn vespers for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The author of numerous books on the liturgy and spirituality, Dom Basil was also a proponent of the so-called "centering prayer" method. I only met him once, about ten or twelve years ago, at a lecture at Georgetown. As people came into the lecture hall, he simply sat up front in his chair, not fidgeting or speaking, but with a calm look on his face. Only when the voices in the crowd died down, did he begin his talk with an absence of fanfare. Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


The other night, on his MSNBC program Hardball, Chris Matthews featured a religious movement within the Church known as Opus Dei. Actually, what it's called is a "personal prelature," the first of its kind in the Church, a model of lay apostolate with its own jurisdiction, its members being clerical and lay, married or single.

Much has been written about them, and whatever I say here will assume that the reader has heard something about them. A link to the MSNBC page be found by clicking here.

My own feelings about them are mixed. The name "opus dei" used to refer to the Divine Office, and it still does. The founder, St Josemaria Escriva, would have known this. Personally, I think it's damned arrogant for them to appropriate it for themselves. (Just couldn't come up with your own name, could ya, now?) The MSNBC article also blames some of the reputation for "secrecy" on the fact that an FBI agent who was caught spying for the Russians was a member of Opus Dei. Well, sorry, but they got that label a long time before that. I've heard at least one personal account from a former perspective member to that effect. But only one.

The question has arisen, then, as to whether or not they are a "cult." It's entirely possible they have some of the characteristics of a cult, and were it not for their ultimate accountability to the Holy See, they probably would be outright. Then again, the same might be said of most religious orders, particularly those who live in cloister. In the end, part of the issue may be that they are a new model in the life of the Church, with a few kinks yet to be worked out. And so, there's a pamphlet out there called "A Parent's Guide to Opus Dei," to warn parents of certain excesses supposedly prevalent within the movement.

I don't think it was really necessary for the founder, St Josemaria Escriva, to be canonized so quickly. A pope who expressed his eagerness to canonize married couples, and then who got the fast track? Makes you wonder.

To their credit, they do a great job running the Catholic Information Center here in downtown Washington. I get books there all the time, and sometimes I go to daily Mass there. All the priests I've ever met from them are dedicated and devout. Most of the lay members used to strike me as a bit too docile, but that appears to be changing.

Whatever the future holds for such movements, they're obviously not for everybody.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

Most readers of MWBH know I'm divorced and have a son from my past life. Paul graduated from high school one year ago, and has spent the time since then establishing himself on his own. It's been that way since his mom got re-married and left town, and I still live in a studio apartment with no room for him. Call it a tribute on the damage done by what we used to call "broken homes." Write it off as a sad commentary on the soaring price of housing in areas like Washington DC and the vicinity. In any case, after fifteen years of living out of someone's basement, I'm ready to look for a place with my own name on it.

In 1983, we bought a townhouse west of the Beltway for $86K. We sold it 1991 as part of a divorce settlement for $140K. It would now sell for at least $250-300K. This is a transient area, and with people moving every few years, the cumulative effect is for housing to appreciate faster than in areas where people tend to stay put.

I hate the suburbs here; the commute is twice as long as it would be back home, you have to drive to everything, and you don't know your own neighbors. What's more, there is no sense of a heritage in a place that didn't exist a generation ago, and such is often the case with the Virginia suburbs of DC. Even the "friendly neighborhood parish church" in the suburbs is built like a Wal-Mart, surrounded by acres of parking, and shut up tight by sundown. So I hope to live in the city, even if that means getting something smaller. A two-bedroom rowhouse would be just enough. But it'll be mine, by cracky!

Have you ever had to move? Most of the time before that is spent deciding what not to take. All the stuff stored in the bottom of your closets comes out of hiding, and it's then that you realize how well you got along without it. I've also got two or three bookshelves worth of imminent donations to the parish library; mostly periodicals I simply can't hang on to anymore. Then there's clothing and assorted knick-knacks for Goodwill. (I never could handle doing yard sales.)

There's no hope of living in northern Arlington. They're putting up luxury condos all over the damn place, starting well into the 300s. Crossing US 50 into the southern part alone will save at least $100K. Even so, at the rate things are going, there will be no place for our maids to live by the end of the decade.

All this, altogether, means two things.

For one, school will be put on hold for the summer, with the hopes that I'll remember most of what I spend nine months learning. I have one final illustration project I'm working on, due by the end of next week. After that, it's off until October.

For another, no vacation. Not even Ohio. Certainly not Seattle. How I do miss the Northwest!

Fortunately, I don't have to give up dancing. Or this weblog.

Now, aren't you glad you read this far?

Monday, June 06, 2005

"You're going to church wearing THAT???"

Dom Bettinelli describes his experience with this year's confirmation class at his parish. He brings up two issues worthy of notice. One is the "aw, shucks" demeanor of a visiting bishop while in the midst of the ritual (and you wonder where the pastor gets it).

The other issue has to do with immodest dress, especially by young girls.

I remember as a child in the 60s, when my dad was adamant that I wear a white shirt with a tie on Sunday. Even when different colors of dress shirts became popular late in the decade, it took a bit of convincing to allow for some color in my wardrobe. Closer to the present, I was the one holdout in the family when it comes to how our kids dressed for church. My siblings would think nothing of my nephews wearing shorts to church in the summer. Even on vacation back to Ohio, I wouldn't allow my son to wear shorts to church; I didn't care what the others did. It was a bit of irony that my parents, now getting on in years, wouldn't understand why I made a case out of it.

Funny how life works that way.

My typical involvement in parish life is as a lector. In all humility, I happen to be quite good at it.* And when I do, I dress for the part, even in summer. Whatever the time of year, I don't always wear the traditional tie. Sometimes a dress shirt with a banded collar, sometimes a non-traditional tie more suited to whatever else I have on. If the place were not air-conditioned, I'd likely wear a barong tagalog with the appropriate neckwear. Anyway, the layman in charge of lectors will sometimes give me a hard time about it. I'd simply give him or her the example of a statement once issued by Pius XII on modesty in dress, then call his attention to the number of young girls in the sanctuary with hemlines halfway to (shall we say?) kingdom come. I'd then point out that His Holiness says nothing about a tie.

That usually shuts them up. Bottom line is, I'm still the best dressed guy in the house.

Guidelines about "appropriate length" mean little to a fourteen- to sixteen-year-old girl, whose mother didn't tell her any better, and whose father is too clueless to notice. Whatever a gal can get away with at the nightclub (or in my case, the nearest roadhouse), I'd be the one to tell them: "At or below the knee, nothing sleeveless."

I don't know why more pastors don't say anything. Most of the ones I meet are girly-men anyway, who couldn't stand up to their own shadows. Ah, yes, another story for another day...


* The vast majority are not. Many sound muffled or indistinct, even with a PA system. Still others are clear enough, but have that sing-song tone of inflection to their voice, that is not only as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard, but renders the words of the Prophets indistinct from St Paul's epistles. Even for special occasions in a cathedral church, they are appointed more for their position outside the sanctuary, than for their delivery within. I understand the Episcopal Church requires its lay readers to be commissioned by their local bishop, even provisionally. Not a bad idea.
"They're breakin' up that old gang of mine..."

The above was a popular tune around the end of World War II, a tribute to the friendships forged by the men in uniform.

It could also describe the scene in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the past decade, now that formerly submerged republics and ethnic peoples are on the road to self-determination. Among the lesser-noticed is contained within the region of Saxony, in the south-eastern part of Germany, a nation which until the late 19th century was an amalgam of kingdoms and fiefdoms, once part of the Holy Roman Empire:

The Government of the Land of Saxony reached the decision last month not to allow the creation of 5th classes, the youngest class in several secondary schools age 10 - 16, in Upper Lusatia as of the coming school year... In reaction to what is seen as an alarming development for Sorbian schools and bilingual education in Saxony, the federal board of the Domowina, the Union of Lusatian Sorbs, argued for the preservation of the Sorbian and bilingual schools at a meeting in Bautzen last week. "Schools as public speech areas are the pillars of maintenance and revitalization of the Sorbian language," it said in the resolution...

The area known as Lusatia is described as "a country of Sorbs, the smallest Slavonic nation."
"Deep Throat" Ad Nauseum

It seems the press isn't tired of hearing about the anonymous source used by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to expose the 1972 Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up. Certainly not the Post.

Yesterday's Outlook section was inundated with a number of pieces on various aspects of the Mark Felt story. Among them was an excellent piece on the dichotomy of the status-quo that is unique to the Nation's capital:

The unmasking of former FBI official W. Mark Felt as "Deep Throat" has given the country a rare glimpse into the two separate spheres that coexist uneasily within the U.S. government...

When I refer to Talk Show World... I'm using the phrase to refer to all those prominent individuals who appear on television, or write articles and books, or go off on the lecture circuit to discuss what's going on inside the U.S. government or whatever administration is currently in power...

Most Americans mistakenly presume that their government is run by Talk Show World -- even though, in reality, the denizens of this universe may have no power at all and may have no more than a limited connection to the inner workings of government...

Mark Felt was a classic representative of that other sphere, Hidden World. It comprises bureaucracies and institutions through which the United States must operate day in and day out -- the FBI, the CIA, the armed forces. Hidden World is by its very nature faceless, but also permanent. Administrations come and go; the big organizations remain...

Admittedly, the story suffers from the tendency to make Nixon out to be the only president in recent history to have anything up his sleeve. That's because he was a Republican, and the others were all... you get the idea. But it is still a good analysis of how this town really works -- and occasionally doesn't. There's much more to read in that section, but that's the cream of the crop.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sweet Child O Mine
Eyes Westward

I was thinking about Ohio this morning. In particular, the little town where my paternal grandmother grew up. It's called Frenchtown. The Catholic parish there still has a sign next to the door: "Sancte Famille." I took a picture of my son standing next to it. He must have been about four at the time. It's around here somewhere...

Still homesick, I wandered aimlessly around the blogosphere, beyond the Midwest and into the Great Plains, where the buffalo roam -- or at least where they used to. It was there that I met a wise man from North Dakota, who had a list of fifteen things for New Yorkers or Californians to remember when visiting his neck of the woods:
"Don't order filet mignon or pasta primavera at Kroll's Kitchen. It's a diner. They serve breakfast 24 hours a day. Let them cook something they know. If you upset the ladies in the kitchen, they'll kick your..."
It gets better.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Ite ad loseph" ("Go to Joseph")... as long as you don't bury him upside down.

A lot of people with nothing better to do today, are engaged in a hot debate at Jimmy Akin's weblog, over whether burying a statue of St Joseph upside down in the front yard to sell your house is a genuine pious devotion, or a superstition.

The answer to this and most other similar devotional acts is always... it depends.

Why are you doing it? Are you asking Saint Joseph for his intercession in securing a successful transaction? Do you as a father ask his guidance in leading your family on to the next location, and blessing it as well? Catholics can do that, you know? In so doing, they appropriate certain signs and/or actions which, in another culture, would have been an invocation of a false god. That would be superstitious. But the Church historically does not supress the cultures it evangelizes; it brings out the best in them. We would be a rather colorless and iconoclastic faith without this. In such cases, this is not superstition.

Now, don't you wish you'd asked me first, and saved you all this trouble?
The Patron Saint of... Apologies?

Today is the commemoration of Saint Justin Martyr (reformed calendar). Born about 100 AD in Samaria to pagan parents, he converted to Christianity in Ephesus at the age of 38. A noted philosopher of the early Church, he is best known for two post-Apostolic writings. One, the Dialogue, is a discourse with Trypho (or Tryphon) the Jew in defense of Christian beliefs, particularly in relation to Jewish writings. The other is the Apology, a treatise of customs and practices of 2nd-century Christianity. One highlight of the latter is an early description of the Mass, the most detailed account by that early date.
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each..."
Justin was martyred circa 165 AD, during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius.
So we know who "Deep Throat" is... now what???

Yesterday it was disclosed that W Mark Felt, the number two man at the FBI in the Nixon years, was the anonymous source known as "Deep Throat," whose leads aided two young reporters from The Washington Post write the story that brought down a presidency. And it didn't look too shabby on their resumés either.

Felt was in charge of the investigation of the break-in at the Watergate hotel. It was just after the death of J Edgar Hoover, and the Bureau was in turmoil. So who does Nixon put in as Director to ensure continuity? One of his own hacks. On top of that, the Bureau's hands were being tied. Now civil servants take an oath, not to a President or a government, but to the Constitution. That goes double for Federal law enforcement. So this was more than a guy like Felt could handle. So he... handled it. The rest is history.

Not to mention the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

It was put in the news cycle late yesterday afternoon, and most of big celebrity bloggers at St Blogs have yet to comment as this is posted. But most of them are too young to remember squat, so here's what they won't tell you.

About the time of Nixon's resignation, the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR Jr, admitted that his own father did things worse than Nixon ever imagined. Then there was a book that came out in 1977 entitled It Didn't Start With Watergate by Victor Lasky. From its pages, you will discover:

1. LBJ's wiretapping of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 campaign - and Martin Luther King, too (wasn't this what got Nixon in trouble?)

2. LBJ's stolen Texas election with help from later Texas Governor John Connally (yes, the same one shot when JFK was killed) that propelled him to power.

3. The Kennedy's misuse of the IRS against opponents, the FBI against King, and the patriotism issue against Hubert Humphrey (proof that it isn't just the Swift Boat vets that do it)

4. The fact that McGovern was dead in the water even without Watergate. He mentions the Eagleton affair and Humphrey's notion that McGovern had his own dirty baggage as far as politics went.

(items from a review at

And don't even get me started on President Clinton, who lied outright to a grand jury, and on national television. We all stood there and watched. Knowing full well what a crook he was, we re-elected him. After all, he played the saxophone on MTV, and told the kids he didn't inhale.

Nixon, on the other hand, was a geek. His hair wasn't as nice as Jack Kennedy's, and his picture was taken walking the beach in his wing-tipped shoes, and playing "Home on the Range" on the piano. Now, we simply can't have such a creepy, icky guy as our President, can we?

So, whatever questions are finally answered by yesterday's disclosure, the big one won't be: Was it his own treachery that brought down the Nixon presidency, or a victory of style over substance?