Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stephen Heiner on Clean Livin' and Fancy Footwork

...or, as he would put it just in time for the Labor Day weekend, "How to get out of a ticket 101."

Years ago, when I lived in Georgetown, I got out of a huge parking violation from the DC courts, received through the mail, only when I proved there was no way someone with a DC residential parking sticker would have his car (or in this case, a car that looked a lot like mine with a similar license plate) parked in that other part of town during the work week. And since the parking enforcement system is the only part of the DC Government that actually works efficiently, that's nothing to sneeze at. It also didn't hurt that the citing official had lousy handwriting.

It can happen.

"What's the worst that could happen?"

I heard some disturbing news yesterday, and was moved to make contact via e-mail with the following:

Dear Father X:

We've never met, and I'm nobody important.

It was through the weblog entitled "The Dawn Patrol," authored by one Dawn Eden, that I learned of your resignation from the priesthood. Obviously I'm not in a position to know all the facts, but I know what I read in the papers, and I know you got the short end of the stick. This is not a reason to quit, but when it's one damn thing after another, it's hard not to. I don't know what your plans are, but I'm betting it's possible you might feel like gettin' out of town, maybe coming to a place like Washington DC to catch a show or look up friends or something. If you do, please give me a chance to put you up for one night in a hotel, buy you dinner, and try to talk you out of this.

What's the worst that could happen? You know where to find me.


You suppose he might think I'm serious?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

At the End of the "Day"

Readers of mwbh are aware that I have featured the comic strip "Day by Day" at the bottom of this page. The author, Chris Muir, provides the code for bloggers to feature it on their own sites, continually updated. I've been rather out-in-the-open about a problematic turn in the story line. Lest there be any mistake, I do not endorse the mature theme being dealt with of late. My display of it here was in order to call attention to such a trend, particularly as it concerns the issue of abortion, in an art form that purports to reach a politically and socially conservative audience.

To wit, "Belloc" makes a good point in the comments section of "Huh???" I want to thank him for bringing it to my attention, if for no other reason than to plead that so many people would care one way or the other. Quite frankly, those of us who inhabit the arena known as "St Blogs Parish" understand all too well that a mere three or four blogs tend to dominate the Catholic blogosphere. Now, your mother and mine always used to say, that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But I've learned over the years, that the best results come from a fresh road kill. To put it another way, sometimes you have to raise a big enough stink to get any attention. That may not seem like much as you, dear reader, are sharing in this. But if you're like me, you only have so many hours in a day, and you go where the action is. Meanwhile, I'm more than content with a modest and dedicated cult following. Some of us have to work for a living, you know.

"Day by Day" has been with this blog from its beginning, and when the code was provided by Mr Muir for daily display and updates, I availed myself of that service. I appreciate it less for what Belloc calls its "feminine allure" than for its clever witticisms. ( has an interview with Muir, and highlights from the series.) Now, no one reading mwbh would ever accuse me of being a prude, but I'd be lying to you if I didn't say I was a little troubled by the comic strip's direction in the past couple of months. If our two sets of lovebirds are going to be hitting the sheets in lieu of marriage, there's only two ways this story can end; one a bit tawdry, the other badly. That doesn't matter much in our world, and we presume to be inundated with it by Hollywood or Madison Avenue, but it should matter to someone with the kind of audience that Mr Muir wants to reach.

And so, after taking the matter under further advisement, I am deleting the "Day by Day" strip from the bottom of the page effective today. In addition, the segments featured in the past week will be replaced by a simple link. In the hopes that some influence may be brought to bear on Mr Muir, I am returning the link for his page to my section entitled "The Usual Suspects." Should the story continue to "slouch toward Gomorrah," I may have no choice but to delete it even from there.

Now... which one of us is going to break the news to Chris?

Don't all jump up at once.


Last night I received the following from an anonymous correspondent:

"What is up with the scantily clad cartoon?? I'm not even sure what its getting at... but I certainly wasn't expecting to be half-mooned by a cartoon on this site."

I had no idea what they were talking about, considering it was attached to yesterday's "Girls Who Never Fly Coach Revisited" post. Then I remembered my brief commentary on the recent plot twist taken by Chris Muir's "Day by Day" cartoon, the one with a different episode that appears daily at the bottom of this site. Now that my commenter mentions it, I can't help but notice that the female characters have lately been looking a bit more... well, you know.

(As to what it's "getting at," the way this comic strip thing works, see, is that when it's a continuing story from one day to the next, you have to follow it accordingly. Okay, let's get back to our regular programming.)

Personally, I don't always scroll down that far, and when I do, I keep telling myself, it's only a cartoon, it's only a cartoon. I'm more concerned about the thematic issue, wondering if this is the kind of story line I want highlighted in my neck of the woods. Now, Muir's cartoon is a big favorite at a number of "politically conservative" sites. The future of that good fortune obviously rests on the message he decides to "conserve." If today's installment is any indication, there's the slightest ray of hope.

Click here.

Except, of course, for that nagging issue of the two of them not being... well, you know.

Meanwhile, speaking of half-moons, I believe The Old Farmer's Almanac is calling for one in the sky tomorrow tonight. Just so you know.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Today would be a good time for this.

I came across a video clip on Amazon, featuring Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy performing together as "The Zozo Sisters," on a show hosted by a guy who probably got the crap beat out of him after school every day when he was a kid for being so damned obnoxious and it still haunts him to this day because he SOOOOO wants to hang with the cool and smart people. In other words, Bill Maher. If you can ignore him (and it's a lot to ask), the gals are worth a listen. Click here.

Just an aside. I met Ann Savoy a few years ago when she performed with The Magnolia Sisters. Don't remember much, except that they were lovely gals, but they weren't much for cajun dancing, and actually enjoyed gyrating to garden-variety rock and roll music a lot more. I had to re-think a lot of things about folk singers after that. Go figure.

Katrina Revisited

One year ago today, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. You know the rest. Last year, it was covered in mwbh:

It Ain't Easy in "The Big Easy"

Be Prepared

Still Big, Ain't Gettin' Easier

And we've all heard the famous quote from NO Mayor Ray Nagin, in response to criticism originating out of New York: "You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair." Okay, how's this for being fair: Nagin's no Giuliani. Between the levees at risk and the culture of non-self-reliance, New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen. Last time I looked, New York still hums along with its hole in the ground.

But down in New Orleans, they still need help. The city remains one of our largest seaports, and is a lynchpin of America's unique contributions to the world of music, especially jazz. If you click on the entries above, you'll find links to charities that could still use a hand with the rebuilding.

Meanwhile, two places I'd recommend to keep up to date on things are Michelle Malkin (if she ever gets tired of that whole Middle East thing for a few hours) and The Survival Blog of New Orleans.

In addition, Judith Moriarty of TCR News provides critical analysis of the plight of NO's poor in a piece entitled "The Great Katrina PR Stunt and the Hidden Underbelly of America’s Poor." Bryan of Hot Air contributes one very telling photo that's worth the proverbial thousand words, to accompany his piece entitled "The Buses of New Orleans." Not to be outdone, his colleague Allahpundit provides some comic relief.

[THIS JUST IN: From The Anchoress, we get more for inquiring minds.]

Girls Who Never Fly Coach Revisited

Last week I ventured into the larger realm of the blogosphere, long enough to report on the adventures of the heart of one Seattle/Las Vegas/Costa Rica resident named Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey. Well, it seems Cupid is lurking around the corner a bit earlier than called for by her meticulous plans, as an old sweetheart from college has shown up at her door, as if on cue. It also seems the things that used to bother her about him are no longer an issue, while the "old magic" is still there.


It's been my experience (such as it is) that no matter how much a woman insists she is "not ready for a relationship," she will drop everything when that Certain Someone walks into the proverbial crowded room. She could be working two jobs, or spend much of the year on business travel or whatever. But when Love gives her a good whack on the head with a two by four, the excuses go right out the window.

In the case of our heroine, a closer read would show that, her protestations notwithstanding, she is never unattached for very long.

(Me, a sore loser? Perish the thought!)

But, hey, let's give her credit where it's due; she admits to the possibility of being on the rebound. If I were her (given the understanding that I'm not worthy), I'd act on that instinct, because it's probably true. And from the looks of things, she oughta come up for air once in a while anyway. Whatever happens, her growing fan base appears to have moved her to convert this would-be "Sex in the City" drama into -- get this -- a five-part series! No doubt a concession to all those "low-quality" men who want to live vicarious lives following every tug of her heartstrings. This could explain why she's inundated with online suitors.

If they click on over to the internet casino links, this inconvenience could actually pay off. C'mon, boys, Baby needs a new pair of shoes!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ephesians Five

Last weekend, the readings in the reformed Roman rite dealt with what the gospel called "hard sayings." I was a lay reader at my parish on Saturday evening, and it has occured to me to reflect on the experience here.

In the first reading from the Book of Joshua, he challenges the Israelites to choose whom they will serve: "As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b) The gospel reading, as is the pattern at this time in the liturgical cycle, deals with Christ as the bread of life, of the need to eat His flesh and drink His blood to gain eternal life. (As some of you know, for Our Lord to compare Himself to the Passover Lamb, was a bit more than the majority of His followers could take.)

But the real bone of alleged contention was in the second reading, that infamous passage from the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21-32).

"Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ."

With the first sentence of this reading, Paul sets the stage for the big picture, the obligations of each toward the other. (Emphasis is added in some places, for readers with incurably short attention spans.)

"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything."

The above is framed in reference of both parties being submissive to one another. Thus the obligations of the wife might be seen in the proper context. But unlike some of the one-dimensional twits who read this thing, Paul doesn't stop there, as he reserves his stronger and more elaborated admonition for the husband.

"Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body."

To put it another way, Paul challenges the husband to lay down his life for his beloved (like Christ did -- you know, that whole nailed-to-the-cross-and-dying-for-our-sins thing???), an obligation which he does not make of the wife. Try telling that to the feministas doing the arm-twisting in parishes across the land last weekend.

Between the two parts of the reading, Paul sets out to distinguish the role of each, as well as how one complements the other. But if one only speaks of the role of the husband (as is called for in the limp-wristed short form), the proper context is lost, as is the whole point of the text. All this to placate people who, by their own tacit admission, don't know of this distinction to begin with.

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church."

I didn't have the chance to check with the priest to see if the above would pass muster with him. Fortunately, I blew off the dime-store theologian posing as a sacristan (see earlier post today entitled "Ad Random") and went and read it anyway. As fortune would have it, the good Father told me after Mass he would have directed me to read the long form anyway. My instincts about him were correct, and I got a record number of three compliments on my delivery -- two of them from women. (A majority. Hah!)

The message is not about just men, or just women, but about a community of love, one inspired by God's love for His people, Christ's love for His Church, and a man's love for his wife. After all, one of the many gifts of Christendom is the protocol of a man giving up his place in the lifeboat for women and children.

Concerning the latter, one must wonder whether there any complaints among "liberated" women of which we are aware.


Ad Random

I'll be doing much of my writing in the evenings this week. I'm finishing up a movie review for another blog, which should be up in the next week or so. Stay tuned...

This past Sunday, the second reading in the reformed Roman liturgy was the dreaded passage in Ephesians 5 on wives submitting to their husbands and all. I was the reader at my parish Saturday evening, and read "the long form" which includes the aforementioned dreaded passage -- over the objections of an over-zealous sacristan who was in a tizzy because "the ladies wouldn't like it." In an upcoming entry, I'll explain why REAL ladies don't have a problem with it at all. Neither did the celebrant, but more on that later...

Speaking of celebrants, I would ask my readers to remember a priest from the Midwest who is a long-time friend of mine. Like me, he has a depressive condition. As this is written, he is headed to a treatment facility in another state, and I ask for your prayers, that he finds the peace of mind he so sorely needs.

It's coming up on the Labor Day weekend. Nearly every year since 1989, I've spent it in, of all places, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Click on the link to learn more.

Finally, the commemorations of St Monica and her son St Augustine, are celebrated yesterday and today, respectively. Don Jim has more, as does my main man, Father Benedict Groeschel.

My dad always told me...

...that there were two ways to get ahead in the world. One was to improve yourself. The other was to bring other people down to where you were.

You decide.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"John Henry" is one of a number of tunes featured on Bruce Springsteen's new CD/DVD combination album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, the spontaneous recordings of traditional folk tunes, most of them in the public domain, that were made popular by folksinger/legend/political-left-wing-yahoo/whatever Pete Seeger over the years. The audio CD side of the Springsteen opus contains 13 selections, recorded in three one-day sessions over the past nine years. The DVD side has a documentary on the making of the album, along with a live performance of six of the featured songs. (If you saw this performance on public television lately, you should have known the recorded version would come out soon enough.)

While "The Boss" is not a great singer, he does a fine job with what he has, and this writer has found his acoustic efforts over the years "Nebraska" and "Ghost of Tom Joad" -- to be big favorites. In the liner notes, he writes: "Growing up as a rock n' roll kid I didn't know a lot about Pete's music or the depth of his influence. So I headed to the record store and came back with an armful of Pete Seeger records. Over the next few days of listening, the wealth of songs, their richness and power changed what I thought I knew about 'folk music.' Hearing this music... sent me off, casually at first, on a quest."

It has the feel of something genuinely thrown together by a group of musician-friends. The result is a rollicking good time that is definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"But we're not talking about nobody."

I've been following the online cartoon "Day by Day" almost from the beginning. It is a regular feature here at mwbh, being found every day at the bottom of the page.

Go ahead and scroll down for a minute; I'll wait...

Okay, we're back. Now then...

Anyway, things were going just fine with the underlying tension among the four characters, until artist Chris Muir decided to pair them up. Oh, it's still amusing enough, but it's not quite the same. To wit, we have the unlikely match of a "staunch conservative" African-American (there are more of those than you think) and the cliché-driven liberal white female (and there are more of those than we need). Regular viewers would know that they're getting quite cozy these days. Judging from today's entry, certain realities may be setting in...

Click here.

Some things in life have a way of doing that, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Hey, boys and girls, guess who's no longer a planet!


"Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight... 'It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called "planet" under which the dwarf planets exist,' [specialist Jocelyn Bell Burnell] said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella."

Film at eleven.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Am I the only one who notices these things?

The Associated Press reports on the outcry over the opening of a restaurant in the suburbs of Bombay, India, with the name of... Hitler's Cross. Decorated with the appropriate Nazi regalia, it has provoked outrage from the local Jewish community.

And I'm not saying it shouldn't, but...

At the same time, there is a curious fascination with all manner of Soviet and related accoutrement, like Chairman Mao buttons and Che Guevera tee-shirts. Any of these goons were every bit as bloodthirsty. Joe Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler could have imagined, and in all likelihood, he enjoyed it a lot more. But Roosevelt and Truman had no problem sucking up to "Uncle Joe," and there exists in the popular culture to this day, a certain caché associated with that culture.

Can somebody take a few minutes from reading the usual luminaries in the blogosphere long enough to explain this to me?

(It's 'cuz they had better PR, right?)

Where does your garden grow?

Photo courtesy ABC News

According to ABC News last night, not necessarily in the back yard.

But in drought-ridden prairie country, the Cox family says its curious front yard saves money on the water bill while giving a new use to the space. "It's so much more interesting. A front yard is flat and boring," Priti Cox said. "And when you don't have young children, the only reason you ever go out in your front lawn is to mow it."

Architect Fritz Haeg has targeted that space, and started converting lawns like the Cox family's into what he calls edible estates by creating environmentally-friendly landscapes that overflow with vegetables and indigenous plants.

"The lawn has become an icon of the American dream. But there really is a dark side to that image because … we pour water on it, we pour chemicals on it, we mow it. It pollutes the air. And then, it's not even a space that we occupy. We don't feel comfortable spending time there," Haeg said.

Haeg isn't the first to think of this, but he's probably the most visible as a crusader for it. And really it's about time, as America needs to pull back from the culture of excess. Two books on the subject are available for those who want to know more. One is The Front Garden: New Approaches to Landscape Design by Mary Riley Smith, and The Edible Salad Garden (Edible Garden Series) by Rosalind Creasy. The latter is part of a whole series with other pertinent varieties.

This week's tip of the Black Hat goes, for once, to a major player in the mainstream media, namely ABC News. And only for this. Don't let it go to your heads, guys.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A goddess on a mountain top...

...was burning like a silver flame.
The summit of beauty and love,
And Venus was her name.

image courtesy of

For the past week or so, columnist Michelle Malkin has been taking a vacation from her video weblog at Hotair, leaving the spotlight to others of like mind. This week it was Mary Katharine Ham. She mentioned some local personality on her webcast, and in a moment of weakness, Mary Katharine got the best of me:

Unfortunately, you got me curious about Jackie Passey. Next thing you know, I was going through her archives trying to figure out why she broke up with her boyfriend, especially after he bought that sports car of his. (And don't think for a moment that women don't get off on guys with fast cars. I've lost to one of those things one time too many during my misspent youth. But enough about me...) I even looked on his blog. My only guess is he was way too much into his poker game.

Why do I care? This is all your fault, you know that?

Especially since I already knew Mormons were allowed to dance. They have to do something to get their heart started since they can't drink coffee...

That was when she was kind enough to direct my attention to the full story:

Dating tip: Quality dates quality

...not to mention some color commentary elsewhere on the net:

The Perfect Girl For Allah (And Everyone Else, But Only If You're A Quality Man)

The short story is, the announcement of Jackie breaking up with her boyfriend has immediately led to no end of e-mail offers, from gentlemen who appear to have an inflated view of their place on the food chain that is her universe. This collective lack of discernment has left her quite annoyed, and left with no choice but to clear the air. The thing is, she might be right. Following a typical "ugly duckling" girlhood, Miss Passey began a self-made makeover, transforming herself into an intelligent, successful, and beautiful swan -- the kind of gal who, as we'd say back where I came from, "never has to fly coach." Why should the likes of her settle for some average mope who thinks he has her number without ever having met her?

Her weapons were her crystal eyes,
Making every man mad.
Black as the dark night she was
Got what no one else had.

To hear Miss Jackie tell it, it probably helps if you're an atheist.

I suppose I have the benefit of being roughly twice the age of most of the audience here. (That's just a wild guess, mind you. For all the hell I know, there may be lots of people in their fifties who still see matters of the heart in this way.) There is a great deal of emphasis on the importance of her resumé, as well as that of any prospective suitor. Even some of her detractors dwell on the surface qualities, some insisting that she's not so good looking. Some of them are rather mean about it. I happen to disagree, as she really is quite lovely. But it's relatively easy to be when you're under thirty (her efforts at the makeover notwithstanding) when most of it is hereditary. The trick is to maintain it when you're forty, or fifty, after two or three kids, and the ups and downs of a full life. Now, Ms Passey makes it very clear what she wants out of that life, and children isn't one of them. That's also easy when you're under thirty.

The Book of Proverbs tells us: "Charm is fleeting and beauty fades." (31:30) I am not about to deny Ms Passey the merits of her success, as I'm prepared to take her word for what she has made of herself. Then again, there is a different set of priorities when it comes to the things that really last. In the years since my own marriage tanked, I've spoken with a number of women who "married well." They had it all, and it wasn't everything. Then one day they lost it. Some walked away from it, while others lost it to betrayal.

Our heroine may be much smarter than that, of course, and I for one wish her no ill. But life is often more like chess than like poker, and the odds could take this young lady either way. Fortunately, at least one of the respondents knows this:

Though I be slimmer that 62% of American women and have not love,

I am become as jiggling cellulite and sagging jowls.

And though I have an actual bachelor's degree and an IQ that can remove mountains and have not love,

I am nothing.

And though I do have my financial shit together and have not love,

it profith me nothing.

Love suffereth long and is kind, even to men who want children.

Love envieth not people who think Ayn Rand was a pompous fraud and yet seem to lead happy and fulfilled lives.

Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doeth not behave itself unseemly -- but it ain't bragging if it's true, man.

Seeketh not her own, at least not until she decides where her own is going to live.

Is not easily provoked, even by towering arrogance.

Thinketh no evil, not even of fat single mothers.

Bareth all things, though usually not at

Believeth all things, though one hopes not to the extent of interpreting Cylon porn fanfic as literally true.

Hopeth all things, even unto becoming bilingual.

Endureth all things, even Buffy message boards.

Love never fails, unlike Libertarian candidates.

To hear "misterniceguy1960" tell it, it probably helps if you're NOT an atheist.

In the meantime, lest we forget...

She's got it, yeah baby she's got it.
I'm your Venus, I'm your fire, at your desire.

+ + +

("Venus" music and lyrics by Van Leeuwen, first recorded by the band "Shocking Blue" in 1969.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

One of the burning questions of our time is...

...are Mr Vere and Mr Vree really the same guy with a split personality and transposed spellings to distinguish between them? You decide.

Sparing the Rod

According to Orthodox writer/lecturer Frederica Mathews-Green, "The Catholic blogosphere is inflamed" that Rod Dreher, columnist for the Dallas News and contributor to Beliefnet, "is seriously considering Orthodoxy."

Inflamed? Who, MOI???

While it's true I have followed this so-called story for awhile now, I've hesitated to say much, mostly because I was waiting to do justice to this whole "crunchy con" kick that he'd started. The original piece in the National Review referred to the phenomenon as "granola conservatism," and I can't imagine what possessed him to give that up for such a ridiculous title as "crunchy." From what I've been able to observe, the choice has managed to trivialize an otherwise significant cultural movement.

But, more about that later. Back to Rod and this whole Orthodox thing.

I have to confess that in the last fifteen years, I've flirted with the idea of converting to Orthodoxy at least twice. At one point -- and it was very brief, I might add -- I was even worshipping regularly at an Orthodox parish. And yet, beneath the emphasis on tradition and so on, the lack of a central teaching authority (what Catholics call the "magisterium") is cause for some confusion in belief.

I'll give you an example with contraception. The "official" Orthodox teaching, what you can find of it, does not approve it outright, but leaves the decision to the conscience of the individual couple. The trouble is, you won't find that position in any of the writings of the Eastern Fathers of the Church, from whom I'm always hearing Orthodox writers say their Faith continually draws its inspiration. They (or some more than others, for all the hell I know) appear to have made an exception, as does most of Protestantism. So, what's the diff?

We are led to believe that this sojourn of faith has been insprired in large part by what he calls "complete burnout over the Catholic sex-abuse scandal." (Join the club, Rod. Did you think this was the first time this ever happened?) None of the idiots responsible for the current mess are the reason yours truly is still a Catholic. Nor are they sufficient reason to be anything else. Now, if I was important enough for Rod to ever answer my e-mails over the years, I'd invite him to dinner next time he was in town and attempt to reason with him. Failing that, we'd have a great time talking about life being "crunchy."

But hey, that's just me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hey, did you guys miss me?

Nah, didn't think so. After all, I'm on the "B" list, right?

Anyway, I got back on Wednesday night, and I've spent the last couple of days around the house puttering around. The big news in Cincinnati -- besides the Bengals totally humiliating the Washington Redskins last Sunday with a score of 19-3 -- is that "the Queen City of the West" is finally getting its first IKEA store. A place to spend money that's more creative than Wal-Mart. Now that's one step closer to civilization.

Cincinnati is located in the southwestern corner of Ohio. It is approached by two Interstate highways within the state; I-75 from the north, and I-71 from the northeast. The area between the two that lies outside the Bypass (I-275, or what we used to call the "Circle Freeway"), is the fastest growing part of the metro area. It is there that IKEA is breaking ground, and there that we stayed with my kid sister Pat and her husband Ed. Coincidence? You decide.

I visited my folks in Milford (at the eastern end of the Bypass) both Monday and Tuesday. They appeared in high spirits, which is remarkable considering Mom's arthritis, which has been a continual source of, shall we say, redemptive suffering. They managed to sit in rapt attention on Monday's visit as I went on talking about life in Washington and the state of the world in general. In other words, nothing much. Tuesday was a bit more crowded, when my other sister Mary showed up. She's a geriatric nurse, and the primary overseer for Mom and Dad's care. For some reason, we started reminiscing.

There was that time when we were shooting hoops in front of the garage. The ball went up into the gap where the garage door was raised. Steve went up to get it; he must have been about ten or eleven at the time. Anyway, as he was getting the ball, his knee when right through one of the windows on the garage door, cutting a gash at least several inches long and two inches deep. I don't know how we got him down, but Mom remembered that I was able to apply pressure at the source of the main blood vessel as well as cover the wound itself. Mary mentioned how in retrospect it probably saved him from bleeding to death. I still don't remember what I did (although I can pretty much imagine how), but I do remember him saying, "Wow, you can see the meat!"

By the way, he's doing fine now. What can I tell ya?

Monday was when I paid my only respects to a fellow-St Blog's parishioner, namely Rich Leonardi, author of Ten Reasons,and now the proud father of Offspring Number Six. I recommend six more, 'cuz Rich is on a roll.

Tuesday was the Feast of the Assumption. I went to Immaculate Heart of Mary in Anderson Township on the lower eastern outskirts, not far from my old high school, and where my old buddy Father Jan Schmidt rules the roost. It's one way to keep an eye on him without waiting to return a phone call. After all, when a priest is the best, everybody wants a piece of him. That evening, we went to the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, where we turned the corner and came across the famous "mushroom house," the work of a local architect, and which is currently on the market. Sal was sufficiently impressed, so I pulled over, and took some pictures of her with it. Then we met my brother Steve and his family for dinner at a Thai restaurant. (I know what you're thinking; no, I didn't tell that story over dinner.) The boys are doing great, and the middle one is getting settled in at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design as this is written. You get 'em, Scooter.

Wednesday morning saw us heading back to the Nation's capital. I wanted Sal to see what a New England town displaced in the Midwest would look like, so we got off I-70 east of Columbus to visit the village of Granville. We also got to see the parish church of St Edward the Confessor. I must admit a fondness for the old brick-and-stone church, but they've done an impressive job in expanding it to a larger and grander structure. No sign of Dick Vosko's influence here, Deo gratias.

No matter how much one enjoys a vacation, though, there's a great feeling associated with coming home again, even when it's here. I went to Mass this morning at the Cathedral, and wouldn't you know, the assisting celebrant was none other than Father Rob Johansen of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of the weblog Thrown Back. We had a nice chat. Too bad he's leaving tomorrow.

Now then, all that's left is to start working for a living again. Sure hope I remember the way into town.

Friday, August 11, 2006

...'cuz there's a party over here, so you might as well be here, where your people care.

Going Home: II

I'm wrapping up assignments at the office, and making ready to go home to Ohio. It's only for less than a week, but I feel more trepidation than I have in the past.

I would have characterized my first twenty years of living in "the Nation's capital" as a sort of Babylonian captivity, as if to raise a glass once a year and shout, "Next year in Jerusalem!" Or in my case, "Next year in Ohio!" It's been over a year and a half since I last went home, the longest I've ever gone without the trip, and a far cry from when I would return two or three times a year.

I suppose the change occurred around 2000, or shortly thereafter, when I realized that I would probably never return, even after retirement. Sure, my retirement income would go farther there. It could do that in Baltimore as well. There were other factors as well. The culture at the workplace became much more bearable about that time, when a generous retirement and early buy-out program divested the ranks of my particular agency of much of the riff-raff. (It would appear that the most effective victory over one's enemies is the ability to outlast them.) What was left were a higher proportion of folks who were actually qualified for their jobs by any reasonable professional standard. No more living in the Twilight Zone every day. What a relief!

But the biggest change was in me. I simply got used to the idea. I suppose every family with enough siblings has at least one who may be identified as "the lost child," the one who never quite fit in the box like the others. Among the children of Ma and Pa Alexander, I suppose that dubious distinction fell to yours truly. After awhile, you find your own definition of family.

But it comes at a price. My parents aren't getting any younger, and decisions are made from time to time by the family where my opinion is not sought, including those areas where I would have the advantage. There's a price to all the choices we make in life. I pay the price of having a future, one that I could not have found in my chosen profession at the time, not without moving. And yet...

I still miss the lights of the city along the Ohio River, coming around the bend of Columbia Parkway and seeing the jewel of skyscrapers in the distance. I want to walk along the streets of Mount Adams, that hill overlooking the urban center. I want to walk into a fast-food restaurant and look across the counter from someone whose command of the English language is remarkably like my own. I miss ordering six chili dogs with shredded cheese and mustard, and downing them all in a matter of minutes, while Sal sits there in amazement, wondering how such gastronomic feats are possible. To this day, I still make friends in a place I left half a lifetime ago. They are usually other musicians, other dance enthusiasts, other church-goers. Come to think of it, some of them are other bloggers.

Then again...

I have friends and colleagues from all over the world in my adopted setting. I've met people that my siblings will watch on the evening news. I've seen events that my nephews will read about in their history books.

They say you can't go home again. Maybe you don't have to.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Saint Lawrence

"With the robe of joyfulness, alleluya,
Our Lord hath this day clothed His soldier, Laurence.
May Thy faithful's joyous assemblage clap their hands
More cheerfully than they have heretofore."

(from the Mass of Saint Laurence, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press)

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence. He was archdeacon of the church of Rome in the third century. When the Emperor Valerian had Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons executed in 258 AD, Lawrence was left in charge.

Now, back then, for a deacon to be left in charge, this actually meant something, inasmuch as deacons were charged with the temporal goods and charitable works of the local church. On August 6, Lawrence met with Sixtus in the latter's prison cell. The boss laid out the plan; no, we're not leaving forever, you're joining us in four days.

Lawrence saw this as a good time to come up with a plan of his own.

Lawrence distributed the funds of the local church among the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city. When arrested by the Emperor, Lawrence was commanded to produce the wealth of the church. Lawrence produced what he called the "true treasure of the Church" -- you guessed it; the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city.

The emperor was not amused.

Legend has it that Lawrence was martyred by being roasted on a gridiron. It is also said that, at one point, Lawrence told them when he was done on one side, and could be turned over. Modern scholars have suggested that the determination of this method of torture is probably a misreading of the original accounts.

Anything to take the fun outa this, huh, guys?

And so, Lawrence is pictured holding a book of records, a money purse, and/or a gridiron. His image is generally found on one of the "deacon's doors" with the iconostasis of any Eastern church.

Lawrence is also the patron saint of cooks. Not to mention librarians, libraries, lumbago, paupers, poor people, restauranteurs, Rome, schoolchildren, seminarians, Sri Lanka, stained glass workers, students, tanners, vine growers, vineyard owners, wine makers (whew!), and... me!

That's because I was named for my uncle Lawrence Rosselot (pronounced "ROSS-uh-low," from the province of Alsace in France, so the "T" at the end is silent), my mom's brother who died before I was born. It was either a farming accident or complications of influenza; to this day I get two versions of the story.

Finally, on the eve of his feast, one may look up into the night sky (at least in the northern hemisphere) and witness the "burning tears of Saint Lawrence." This is the meteor shower that follows the pasage of the Swift-Tuttle Comet, and precedes the one near The Perseides.

Sure, you missed the one last night. But you've got the coming week to check it out. The best time will be late Friday night and early Saturday morning. They had a party for the occasion two years ago, at Point Lookout State Park in southern Maryland. Maybe it's still on.

Even if it isn't, all the stars will be there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

John 3:16 Revisited

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art." The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."

But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice angrily. "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"

But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son.

They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.

"The man who took the son gets everything!"

Author unknown.

How 'bout we rename it "The Dalai Lama"???

A city in New Mexico is being sued to have the image of three crosses from the city's official seal. The name of the city? Las Cruces, which is literally Spanish for "The Crosses."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Teaching Your Child Music

From the website of Lew Rockwell comes this sage advice on the abovementioned subject -- what to do, and what not to do -- from Brad Edmonds.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fun with Photoshop

By now, many of our readers have seen the photograph produced by the French news service Reuters, of the bombing of a Hezbollah target in Lebanon by Israeli forces. Let's break it down for you, okay?

This is the photograph by Reuters.


This is the photograph altered by Reuters.


This is how the photograph was altered by Reuters.


They used a tool in the image processing software Adobe Photoshop, which is known as a "clone stamp tool." This makes a rubber-stamp-like copy of a particular area, and allows you to duplicate it elsewhere in the image. It is often used, for example, to remove time/date stamp in the corner of a photo, by covering it with surrounding imagery, effectively camouflaging. The editor, however, gives himself away, not only by a lack of artistic acumen, but by accidentally copying the edge of a nearby building -- as you can see just to the right of the two small red boxes in the third image -- thus repeating a shadow of it in the altered version. Oldest mistake in the world. (Watch The Dissident Frogman show you in detail how the deed was done. Thanks, Michelle.)

Any questions?

[UPDATE: Allahpundit provides more fun and games, and detailed analysis from people who actually know a thing or two, at]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Your Mother Should Know

The Beatles have been one of my three all-time favorite bands, along with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (more or less back to their 1970s lineup, Deo gratias) and Moxy Fruvous (four guys from Toronto who broke up a few years ago). Anyway...

Forty years ago today, the "Revolver" album came out in the UK. (It would be released in the USA by US Capitol on the 8th of the month.) It was this album -- or "Rubber Soul" depending on how you look at it -- that signaled the sea-change in the Fab Four from the mop-tops at the top-of-the-pop in a more innocent time, to the late-60s cerebral peace-love-dope advocates of the latter days.

Personally, I knew something was up the minute I heard "Eleanor Rigby" for the first time.

And now, Alan Pollack and Ger Tillekens have collaborated to give us the results of ten years of painstaking analysis with "The Official Beatles' Canon" which covers every Beatles single, album track, and variation thereof, complete with musical and lyrical analysis. (Note: songs are in order of their UK release.) According to Ian the Inoperable Terran, to whom we are grateful for this referral: "The emphasis is firmly in music theory land, but most of the songs have a lot of general comments that the untrained will get a lot out of too."

Maybe I'll find out who The Walrus is after all these years. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"So fill to me the parting glass..."

Beyond the matter of fake ordinations, Ambrose-a-rama talks about the real tragedy coming out of western Pennsylvania. This, from the Post-Gazette:

"Rolling Rock, brewed by that name in Latrobe since 1939, officially closed its plant yesterday... Anheuser-Busch purchased the Rolling Rock brand for $82 million, promising the same formula but moving the production to New Jersey. Bottling in Newark will begin today..."

No offense, Newark, but it won't be the same. But at least now we know where the "33" came from.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain!

Most of you have heard of the recent make-believe ordination ceremony in Pittsburgh this past week. This movement "wants neither a schism nor a break from the Roman Catholic Church, but rather wants to work positively within the Church."

(It's a little late for that, girls. Your actions alone placed you on the outside looking in.)

Some of them have gone to Rome, to the Church of St Praxedis, to gaze at the mosaic depicted above, with a woman identified as "Episcopa Theodora." They would no doubt commence dancing around the goddess tree in delight, having claimed this as proof that the early church had female bishops.

In fact, the woman depicted is the widowed mother of Pope Paschal I, Bishop of Rome in the ninth century. Such a title for the mother of a bishop would have been common at the time. All of this would be verifiable as historical fact, as opposed to the hallucinations of a group of angry apostates. Dom Stephanos explains further at Me Monk. Me Meander.

During the Middle Ages, an abbess would have had the administrative powers of a bishop, including certain ceremonial trappings thereof -- the carrying of a crosier, the possession of a mitre -- much as would have a male abbot. (Brigid of Kildare and Hildebrand of Bingen are but two examples.) This did not make bishops of either abbots or abbesses.

One of the alleged ordinands was a local woman, Bridget Mary Meehan, who hosts a television show on public access cable called "Godtalk." I could do better, but I'm not as pretty.

Oh well, that's show biz.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cubans are dancing in the streets...

...and I can't imagine why.

Mad Mel

Stephen Hand of TCR News comments on that whole Mel Gibson thing:

"If the statements that are attributed to him are true I can only conclude that they weigh about as much as a young man or woman who says, under the influence of Tequila to a nagging spouse, 'I Hate YOU!' and then repents in tears as soon as s/he sobers up and is filled with guilt."

Two respondents at the hotair combox both said it best:

Mikeyboss: "Drunken rantings do not necessarily reflect what a person ‘really’ thinks, especially if that person is an alcoholic, where there can be a Jekyll/Hyde difference between the drunk and sober person."

Donnah: "[I]f you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an alcoholic tirade, you’ll know they’re going for maximum damage points, and truth or personal belief has little to do with it."

You see, you’ve got your happy drunks, your sad drunks, and most often, your mean drunks. In any case, both quotations reflect my own personal experience with alcoholism in my own family.

Gibson has apologized profusely, which isn't good enough for the Anti-Defamation League. He has even offered to go the extra mile: "I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed." That probably won't soften any hearts either.

And yet it seems the intelligensia can be forgiving when it wants to be. Witness this gem from actor Alec Baldwin on December 11, 1998, on NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien (w/Black Hat tip to Marion for quotation.):

"If we were in another country... We would stone [Roman Catholic Republican Congressman] Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families."

Hey, Canada, wouldn't that be a hate crime?


Gone to the Dogs

It is the period from July 3 to August 11 that is traditionally known as the "dog days of summer." No, it's not because the pavement is hot enough to fry a dog's brain. It has to do with Sirius, "The Dog Star," which is a feature of Canus Major, "The Big Dog" (as opposed to Canus Minor, "The Little Dog"). At that time of year, Sirius rises and sets along with the Sun. That and the star's brightness in the night sky are why the ancient Romans believed they got heat from it. These days, we know it comes from the tilt of the Earth's axis. Read more about it at...

Just the same, right about now you probably could fry a dog's brain in the Nation's capital -- not that I'd recommend it. With temperatures topping 100 all this week, your own brain probably wouldn't fare much better. Meanwhile, they've got me working for a living this week, so there will be some new topics later in the day.

Till then, stay tuned, and stay in touch.