Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Apocalypse: An Alt-Christmas Story

Just before 7 this morning, I turned fifty-one. Before the end of the day, actor Denzel Washington will have done the same. Anyway, instead of writing about my holiday, which really isn't finished yet for reasons I've already explained, I'm including a piece written late last night by Paul David Alexander. The title is mine, but the piece itself is his -- right down to a near-aversion to the use of the shift key. – DLA

i got a lot of good stuff for christmas... but heres what i really wanted.

secretly, i was hoping that the morning of the 25th would start out something like this dream i had:

wake up. the power is out. for the first time in forever i have to lift up the curtains to see whats going on.

nothing, i soon find out. its not immediately discernable due to the sunlight, but the power is out, everywhere. houses are unlit. streetlights have stopped working. the parking lots are emptied on my street and i assume people left to find out if their neighbors had power, or to get a better idea about what is going on.

i get in my car and drive around the block. cars are stopped in the middle of the road with no occupants. wouldbe victims of fender benders and head-on collisions, of multi-car pileups and t-boned passenger side doors have, for one reason or another, disappeared. ive read "left behind," so i figure instantly that the rapture has come, that the righteous have been taken and the forsaken have been forced into earthly exile. then i see the wreckage of the buildings around me. layers of gray dust and debris cover the scorched buildings like in news footage of ground zero. it is at this point i remember that the rapture was an invention of fundamentalist christians in the 1850s and is not specifically mentioned as a literal occurence in the book of revelations. also, it was a bunch of bull****. it now seems far more likely to me that al-Someone destroyed my neighborhood; vengeance struck down upon citizens of my street, merely because we let totalitarian dictators make all the most important decisions for us. the punishment, although certainly justifiable, doesnt seem to fit the crime.

as i weave in and out of crowded traffic, strewn bumper to bumper across the beltway, each car empty, i realize thered be no way of knowing what happened if i wanted to. cell phones, televisons, even my car's radio-they arent working. luckily the cd player is.

i begin driving towards fairfax. thats always felt like my home base, ive always felt like "when in doubt, go to fairfax." so thats what i do. along the way, i see roaming strangers on bikes, some in tatterred rags for clothes, too confused and dumbfounded by the situation at hand to shed any sort of light on what occurred while i slept.

i begin knocking on friends' doors. they, too, are just as surprised by what has happened as i was when i looked out the window. i can offer them no answers, just things that must be done to ensure our survival. i knock on door after door. by midday, there are more than a dozen of us, all traveling by caravan through lonesome suburbia.

we have to make sure we have clothes and food. we are raiding convenience stores. we are breaking into tj maxx for some reason. the few store clerks who bothered to show up for work on this of all mornings can do nothing but watch as the crowd and i run through the aisles taking everything and running around like little children. despite the destruction outside, i cant help but feel a sense of optimism. the group is getting larger. suddenly i recognize fewer and fewer people.

if there is ever another history book, than today will be marked down in those books as Consumption Day. batteries for ghetto blasters and flashlights. beef jerky. 97 different kids of gum. sweaters and scarves and cds and tapes. we are selfish, but now it is justifiable, unlike those long lost days when we had it all and wanted more. now we have nothing, and all we want is something.

we are running through the mall. we are changing everything.

we are sitting in the library. we are taking time to read.

as night falls it becomes clearer that things may be this way for a long time. today we survived with a mob mentality. we could all agree without saying a word what the good of the people would be. this is how it will be until the lights come on again.

we are starting fires in the community center to keep warm for a party. since there is hardly any music with us, we are grateful for the songs that are played. we remember ones we forgot. i take a deep breath and exhale, relieved. there is no stench of tribal hippie bull****. this is the real deal. we are helping each other and we are happy to do so. we say please and thank you. we give and take, we laugh mostly. about what used to matter. long lines in stores and tempter tantrums and letting the fact that the guy in front of us on 95 is only going 10 miles above the speed limit instead of 15 get to us - these things didnt just happen. they ran our day. we loved our commute, once. now we are content with no place to go...

i would have also liked an xbox 360. and a bajillion dollars.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Here's hoping we all do better. Merry "Christ-Mass" to all, yada yada, good night!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is it just me...

...or is it possible, that some of the replies given by the "Q&A" staff at the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), are a bit more lame than they used to be???

Read. And discuss.
Is this the reason for the season?

I get more sick of it every year. Maybe it's because they start on me a little earlier than before. Maybe it's because I bought a house this year, and I think Santa's treating me just fine as it is.

By "they," I mean the marketing/retailing apparatus in the USA (one that is perhaps duplicated elsewhere). Now, as I understand it, roughly one-fourth of a large-scale retailer's annual sales is made during the period beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and ending the day before Christmas. So they're off to the races not a moment too soon. And like lemmings over a cliff, we'll follow them. I'll get my fill of all the fun I'm supposed to have, all the magic and the wonder, even as the Halloween decorations are marked down at the local drug store.

Then, as if that were not enough, I have to listen to someone's favorite pop or country singers succeed in butchering our all-time favorite "traditional" hymns.

Meanwhile, in our "countercultural" Catholic press, there is the obligatory reminder that the four weeks preceeding Christmas is not Christmas, it is Advent. And they're right; we should hold off just a bit and devote ourselves more to preparation than to celebration. But do they spend as much time reminding us that there are twelve days of Christmas, as opposed to only one?

I doubt it.

We are told to go to daily Mass, go to confession, give something up as if it were Lent (which is not out of order, as Advent is a time of penitence, if on a different order than that of Lent). But I have yet to hear a suggestion, for example, that instead of giving all our presents out on one day, we extend the gift-giving on through New Year's Day, and into Twelfth Night. Of course, on that last point, it would help if the Church actually insisted we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, rather than go along with the "nearest-Sunday" approach that is currently popular with some national conferences of bishops.

But, now that they're all hiding behind their lawyers for one damn fool reason or another, I submit we can take some initiative out in the pews. So, here's my suggestion. Are you ready?

Make Christmas last for twelve days. Literally.

If you have to give up sweets during Advent, then make merry all the live long day into the first week of the year. Hold back on the Christmas CD's in your collection until Christmas Eve, then keep the party going after the last ball drops on New Year's Day. Take a few days off; nothing important is getting done at the office anyway.* Go down to the southwestern portion of Louisiana, where in smaller cities and little hamlets, the party doesn't stop from Christmas till New Year's Day. (I'm tellin' ya, them Creole people, they know how to party. Yeah, you right!)

But most important, if you do nothing else, give the kiddies only one present a day, for twelve days!!! If you're not careful, they might get the idea that there is more to "Christ's Mass" than what they see in the shopping malls.

Besides, those after-Christmas specials are going to come in real handy, if little Johnny and Suzy are going to be kept in suspense for that long, eh?

And while you're at it, you can always save the best for last.

* Unless you're an exec with one of those companies that have you burning the midnight oil for the year-end report. Or, worse, unless you work for one of those big-@$$ retailers. In which case, I'm letting you off easy. For now.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I have to get my satellite radio home unit fixed over the weekend, or my selection of Christmas music is going to leave a lot to be desired. No more pop singers crooning, please!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is the part where...

...the weblog author tells you how "blogging has been light lately," for one reason or another.

Aside from the demands of academic and professional life, I've been doing a lot lately with, believe it or not, Scouting.

I've been an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America since July 2004, after over thirty years out of uniform. I've been engaged in research for my position as a unit commissioner -- essentially a liaison between the "front office" and the individual units. To that end, I've been in frequent correspondence with my peers in other parts of the country, even the world. Most "Scouters" don't go about it quite this way. It just worked out that way for me. Probably because of a frustration with the role of an adult in Scouting.

The boy scout movement was founded in 1907 by a British war hero named General Robert Stevenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Lord of Gilwell. A handbook he penned called "Aids to Scouting," was developed as a reconnaissance manual duing the Boer War. Upon learning of its popularity with young boys seeking outdoor adventure, he re-worked it to his newfound audience, and re-titled it "Scouting for Boys." In August of that year, on an island off the English coast known as Brownsea, he led an experimental training camp for twenty boys of various walks of life. Dividing them into patrols, developing team-building exercises, and teaching various "scoutcraft" skills, the experiment was a success. You know the rest.

In the course of promoting the Scouting movement throughout the world in the early twentieth century, Lord Baden-Powell was fond of saying, "Once a Scout, always a Scout." Those of us who serve as adults believe that in our hearts; the practical application of it is another matter. Now, don't get me wrong; I enjoy my work, and the adults in Scouting are some of the most reasonable I've ever encountered in volunteer work. It's just that there is very little opportunity for the adults to "do Scouting" themselves, when the bulk of our training, our time and talent, not to mention how we are honored, is mostly dependent upon guiding the boys so that they can "do Scouting."

And so, I've been in touch with like-minded folks throughout the Scouting movement, who share my restlessness over this matter. We seek an answer in the writings of the Lord of Gilwell himself, and the pages of Scouting history. A few of us believe we have found it.

Ah, but that is a subject for another day. As they say in show business: "Always leave them wanting more."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

I hear they're changing the words to "Silent Night" so nobody could possibly get a burr in their saddle over it. Too bad it's in the public domain. Fortunately, the copyright on "Jingle Bell Rock" (words and music by Joe Beal and Jim Boothe, first recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957) is still in force. It's nice to know, as the day of "Christ's Mass" approaches, that some things are still sacred.

Well, the moment we've all been waiting for is upon us. Today, Disney's production of The Chronicles of Narnia opens in theatres across the USA. There is concern among many purists that Disney might have watered down the Christian allegory present in the story, in yet another fit of political correctness.

Of course, the movie is never as good as the book, now, is it? But people managed to sit through Lord of the Rings, which got a good spin in the Catholic press.

Then again, we're talking about Disney here, right?

So, where better to look for how the C S Lewis legacy is being handled, than his stepson, 60-year-old Douglas Gresham, who to this day is overseer of the Lewis estate and de facto custodian of the Lewis legacy.

And, while we're at it, co-producer of the film in question.

In an interview last week with John Flesher of the Associated Press, Gresham observed: "My job, I suppose, was as resident Narnia guru, to make sure everything Narnian was Narnian in the film, to make sure there weren't anachronisms and incongruities... But... the team that we have had on this film has been so good that there's been very little that I've had to complain about."

He also had some advice for viewers:

"Let the magic of Narnia work itself on you. Look at yourself in relation to what's happening on the screen. If you were one of the characters, which one would you be? When we do that honestly, we usually find that we don't measure up very well."

Sooooo.... let's save me the aisle seat, shall we?

(UPDATE: This just in from The Detroit News.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"I will put emnity between you and the woman..."

The line is taken from an antiphon in the Divine Office for today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It does not commemorate the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (as is often assumed by popular belief), but the conception of Mary herself, free from the stain of original sin, within the womb of her mother Anne. For Catholics, this is a holyday of obligation. So I'm duckin' outa here during the lunch break for Mass.

For what it's worth, this is also the day when, twenty-five years ago, former Beatle John Lennon was assassinated outside his Manhattan apartment building.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I tell people they can just call me "sir."

Today, the website of the New Oxford Review features a piece from their January 2000 issue entitled: "Bishop Fred?" Why? "Would Catholics refer to their bishop by his first name? Not likely. It would be incongruous because it would be so disrespectful. Oh yes, we've heard of some Catholics on the left fringe who do so, but they probably do so in order to signal their own low view of the episcopate."

Actually, in the Eastern churches -- both Catholic and Orthodox -- priests and bishops are more often than not, referred to by their first names, as in "Father Basil," or "Bishop Seraphim." The motive of their faithful is less one of familiarity, than of endearment.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For all your "Saint Nicholas Day" needs...

...go to the boys named Nicholas at Traditio in Radice. I first heard the "prison story" years ago from an Old Calendar Russian Orthodox priest. A real Catholic does not hesitate to tell his or her children: "Yes, there is a Santa Claus." This will help them take it from there.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Pope Movies

For what it's worth, here's my review of the recent movies about JP2, as posted on Amy Welborn's Open Book.

"The ABC version was trite, overromanticized, and took considerable liberty with biographical details. The CBS version was more gritty, more authentic, more accurately captured Karol's closeness to certain female friends (although still a little over the top), and the liturgical scenes were more authentic. (Okay, the Nova Huta scene was a bit hokey, but they got it down singing that Litany of the Saints at his ordination.)

"By the way, when Karol learned he was made a bishop, he was on a camping trip. They had to comb the wilderness to bring him the news."

I just love throwing in little fun facts, don't you?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Speaking of movies being kosher...

There's been a lot of buzz about the upcoming film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, opening one week from today at a theatre near you. J R R Tolkein never wanted Disney to get their hands on The Lord of the Rings. Will Mickey and his pals do justice to the work of C S Lewis? Next week we'll report on what's been overheard at the St Blog's Coffee Hour, and provide insight from an unexpected place. And, of course, we'll open the comments box. Stay tuned...