Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Mom, Dad, when I grow up, I wanna be an internal auditor."

In case you should hear that, your Pride and Joy's aspiration is one of five "hot jobs" projected for the coming year. Another one is good news to me -- web developer. After all, I did my own code to change the color scheme on this blog, eh?

Wait till you see what I can do with JavaScript. Keep your eye on that handsome face to the right. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Handyman: Your First Guitar Lesson

With the rip-roaring success of last week's "Handyman (with black hat)," it's now time for another in our (we can only hope) weekly how-to series.

Now that Paul is getting his chops together on the four-string bass, this would be a good time for the rest of you to dust off that six-string variety you've been meaning to tackle. After this first lesson (and a few hours of practicing in front of a mirror), you'll be able to bang out a rendition of "Kumbaya" at the Sunday folk mass with the best of them.

That's if you're into that sort of thing. If you're not, there's hope for you. Enjoy.

[UPDATE: For all you Dead Heads out there, IClaudius of Why Fret has brought to our attention a website with videos, tablature, the works, by some guy named "JDarks." Check it out.]

Heard any good news lately?

This is Catholic Schools Week in the USA. This year's theme is "Catholic Schools: The Good News in Education." And so, we honor those who teach our children, and help us to pass the Faith of our Fathers on to them.


Elsewhere at St Blog's, Rich Leonardi is asking advice on whether to send his kids to Catholic high school, or to a reputable college prep school under the local public school system. Gerald Augustinus is asking for stories from Catholic school teachers. This one takes the cake:

"I'm in my third year as a Theology teacher and coordinator for liturgies at a co-ed Catholic high school in Louisville. The principal is an older, '70's-era Dominican sister who shares a house with the 'campus minister,' a prototypical squat, buzz-cut ex-gym teacher who wears a lot of flannel... It would take me days to vent about what's done here. Suffice it to say for charity's sake that the leadership of a school definitely sets the tone, and if the leadership doesn't care about Catholic identity in a Catholic institution, everything else - from gym to science to sports - is a pale version of what it can really be... Pray for us here - the demoralized faculty, the shrinking student body (325 at present), the frustrated parents who hope to see their kids succeed."

My son Paul was in a Catholic preschool. We took him out for first grade, to send him to a private Christian day school that used textbooks from a Florida publisher called Beka (I know, I know, don't even go there with me!), where he stayed until he finished third grade. The marriage had already gone south, and Paul's mother was filing for divorce. Meanwhile, despite my additional support for his tuition, she fell two months behind in payments, and the pastor sent a private bill collector after her. She called me in tears, like I'm supposed to feel sorry for the mess she had created. But beyond that, it wasn't how I expected these things to be handled. I called the pastor up and basically tore him a new one for not speaking to me first, a registered parishioner who had been instrumental in the parish school merger the year before. I already had a beef with him anyway, as I had been removed as a lay reader for refusing to use "inclusive language" in the readings. The "parish liturgist" told me I was in violation of "parish policy," one which the pastor denied in our subsequent conversation. (You think our excruciatingly orthodox chancery gave a rat's behind? Guess again.) Fifteen years after the episode, Father Fuzzball is at another parish, still trying to find his ass with both hands.

After Paul "graduated" from the private school, he went into the county public system, reputedly one of the best in the country. For all the challenges we faced with that system, I don't regret the decision, as it could only have been worse with a bunch of arrogant little $#!†s using religion as an excuse. (I don't suppose that's ever happened anywhere else lately.) There is one exception; I wish I could have sent him to Gonzaga for high school. Running boys' prep schools may be one of the few things the Jesuits have yet to totally screw up. He might also have been spared much of the excess of pop culture that rules life in a public high school, and which proved his undoing. (Wearing a coat and tie with everyone else every day does wonders for a boy's character.)

We never enrolled Paul in a Catholic school again. It's a shame, really. I believe in them in principle to this day, and have lent financial support to at least two Catholic colleges (neither of which I ever attended) in recent years. But in the present situation, I consider the vast majority of Catholic schools to be a perfectly good waste of money. In some cases, groups of parents have started their own independent academies, and some go on to be very successful. Barring that, however, most parents would be better off teaching their children the Faith at home. I did it with Paul, on those occasions made available to me, from when he was seven and helping me in my work as a sacristan, to when he was seventeen and learning about Thomas Aquinas for the first time. What do you imagine a high school religion teacher would make of the latter?

In the end, it all comes down to the parents. If you're both in it together, you're already a leg up on me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

My Inner Thomist

Today, Catholics celebrate the memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the thirteenth century Dominican priest and Doctor of the Church. John da Fiesole gave him a brief tribute on Disputations a few years back. Thomas was commissioned by the Pope to write the Sequence that is chanted on the Feast of Corpus Christi, an eloquent tribute to the Blessed Sacrament. In addition, and also wrote a number of beautiful Latin hymns, among them Tantum Ergo Sacramentum and Adoro Te Devote.

I learned to be a "Thomist" at the dinner table of my family home. Our parents would engage us in discussions, occasionally challenging us to determine the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind our positions. My father once said: "Everything you do in life will either be a plus or a minus. There will be nothing in between." Only when I was well into adulthood would I discover the inspiration for that maxim.

People think his work is complicated. Quite the opposite, in fact. During his years of study, the works of Aristotle were becoming popular. The lack of apparent ability to reconcile the Greek philosopher's school of thought with Christianity was cause for intense debate among scholars. Into the fray weighed "The Angelic Doctor." Universalis, the online website for the Liturgy of the Hours, relates the following:

"Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the great, infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today.

"Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more..."

According to one Thomist lecturer I once heard, the term "straw" could be accurately translated to read "dung" -- or even more accurately, that of a bovine male.

The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia has more.


Borg cube ship over Earth (fair use; copyright held by Paramount Pictures) (taken from Memory Alpha, where it was uploaded by DarkHorizon)

It's really true what they say; resistance is futile.

I attempted to put off the switch to the "new and improved" Blogger service for as long as possible. Then one fine day, while logging in, they had a surprise for me, in the form of being backed into a corner. Many of my colleagues at St Blog's know exactly what I'm talking about.

Currently, my template has been customized somewhat, although it could stand a bit more to distinguish it enough from several others of you out there. (Nothing personal.) But I've done all the "tweaking" I can do, short of changing the color scheme, before I consider a different template. Or a different provider. Kathy Shaidle of relapsed catholic, the real Godmother of Catholic weblogging (regardless of what you read to the contrary, in every print article on the subject) finally got tired of them, and switched to a different server.

I'm currently in conversation with a new provider, one specifically aimed at the "St Blog's" market. If I can keep the features I have already (the usual suspects, my front pages, back pages, and other cleverly named stuff), plus be able to customize a template with that handsome face on the right that you've all come to know and love, PLUS be able to take my archives with me in one fell swoop -- well, you might see a whole new ball game, when the fifth anniversary of mwbh comes around in June of this year.

Now, if I can only get a handle on JavaScript...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Stephen Wiltshire is the subject of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. He is described thus: "[A] British man who was diagnosed as autistic when he was a child. He's also been noted for his exacting memory, which allows him to recreate (in drawings) vast scenes he sees only once. This video shows his 16-foot-panorama of Rome after taking one helicopter ride above the city... He gets every detail right, down to the number of windows in each building."

He begins his magnum opus at... where else?

A Final Note

On this date in 1998, President Bill Clinton denied having an affair with a former White House intern, telling reporters, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Even after lying to a grand jury before the American people, even after being impeached (!!!), he was still more popular than the current president.

There's a message here somewhere.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Beyond Cadogan Place

Earlier this week, mwbh reported on the sale of a former servant's quarters, about the size of a walk-in closet, in a high-rent London neighborhood. This writer submitted that it was a model for alleviating the affordable housing crisis in America.

It's been said here before, and will be said again: From 1950 to 2000, the average American home doubled in size, and had half as many people living in it. This is where our resources are going, this is what the housing industry insists must be built, as this is allegedly where the "demand" is. Yet outside the Nation's capital, in the suburban counties of Fairfax and Loudoun, Virginia, huge megahomes aimed at the "luxury market" -- as if only the rich ever needed a place to live, without a place for their maids to do the same -- are sitting on that market for weeks, with the asking price continuing to go down. Fairfax County is considering the extension of housing subsidies for people with six-figure incomes.

You read that right. Six. Figure. Incomes. I read it in the Washington Post last fall. This could have been avoided.

Say you had a proposal to build one dozen 3,000 square-foot houses, each sitting on a half-acre lot, each selling for $650K. (Consider these prices in terms of East Coast markets like Washington; in the Midwest, the cost would be around half.) What if, instead, you built two-dozen 1,200 to 1,500 square-foot houses, each on quarter-acre narrow lots, each selling for $300-350K. All would have two- or three-bedrooms, and some would have walk-out finished basements. All would have separate one- or two-car garages in the back, with steeped roofs for an unfinished den or guest room. (Of course, the danger of not having attached garages is that one might actually see one's neighbors, but never mind that, since they might just as easily be attached.) The builder would still get roughly the same return, the houses would move more quickly, the local tax base would benefit from a more stable return as well, since the buyer is less likely to suffer from fluctuations in the market.

This is basically a conventional suburban scenario, for which this writer doesn't care, and for that reason alone. But it demonstrates how developers don't have to be pigs to make a living. And in some of those garage apartments could be the family's aging parent, who could be spared the fate of a nursing home. Or the occupants could be taxpaying, job holding citizens, who would otherwise be out on the street at one point or another. Being out on the street makes it harder to hold down a job, while being out of a job makes it harder to find a place to live, because... you know the rest.

There was a time when the above would have been considered normal. Yes, perfectly damn normal! People like to blame Reagan for the greediness of the 1980s. Seems to me there were plenty of others involved, and not all of them Republicans. The aging hippies predominating in Takoma Park, Maryland, don't look like they're suffering. Not if their real estate assessments are any indication.

So, you're saying to yourself: "Hey, what's this doing on a 'Catholic blog'"? Uh-huh.

Part of being Catholic, is bringing those values into the world, which doesn't always happen on the Parish Busybody Committee. Most people who do "peace and justice" work are wasting their time, as real solutions to anything generally involve more than whining. It may have been the Mennonites who said it: "Live simply, so that others may simply live." How many of us don't, and what is that costing our neighbors?

Our next installment on this subject will include a more radical scenario -- with pictures. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"We are in this for the long haul."

It's all over the Catholic blogosphere by now, and you're all hanging by a thread waiting for my personal spin on it. But first, the story:

In a talk last week in a small chapel on Washington's K Street, the heart of the lobbying community, Archbishop Wuerl distinguished between doing nothing and teaching.

He had said Mass for an overflow crowd, most of which stayed for his talk on a renewed openness to Catholic teaching that he said he sees among young people.

When he took questions, a woman asked how be would respond to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.

His response was "teach."

"That is what Jesus did," he said. "Did everyone accept that teaching? No.... But he didn't stop teaching. We are in this for the long haul."

He noted that he sometimes gets letters from Catholics demanding to know what he will do about such situations.

Let's take a break for a moment. Earlier this month, the Discalced Yooper gave us a commentary on how, since Ms Pelosi is not permanently domiciled in Washington, she does not fall under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Wuerl, and would therefore not be subject to his censure. Something like that. Now, the Yooper is a smart guy, and he's gotten our endorsement here at mwbh. He might even be right on the money, as he usually is. But if only he, a) read more about the section of canon law that includes "quasi-domicile" and so on, or, b) were a canonist himself, I might have something to work with here. But I don't for the moment. All I have is this incident.

Now, back to our story, and the thrilling climax:

His temptation, he said, was to reply with, "What are YOU doing about it? How is your voice heard?"

There was a smattering of applause from his listeners.

Okay. Here's my question to His Immenseness: What if the questioner had an answer for you?

Our posturing prelate will never know, having been saved by the adoration of sycophants, of which he will never be found wanting for the rest of his life. You see, most of us in the pews don't have people lining up to kiss our ring (or whatever we choose to expose for veneration). Some of us have to walk the walk lest we be written off out of hand. And if this little Love Fest is any indication, the Most Reverend Archbishop of Washington doesn't have to know the damn difference.

But those of us who know, that being called "Father" is more than a title to wave like a stick over someone's head, know better. We know there is more to "teaching" than nearly spouting off words. We have to take the broad leap and set an example, or correct the miscreant in question. Sometimes we have to correct the miscreant in public. And when we do, it is because we have no choice; the misbehavior is public, our other children are watching, are taking mental notes, and are learning from what is being "taught."

Dom Bettinelli is one of them who gets it:

Son: Dad, I think you should know that my older Brother is doing some pretty immoral things, including encouraging his no-good friends to commit crimes.

Dad: That is pretty bad. He shouldn’t do that...

So, this week's Tip of the Black Hat goes to the questioner who had to endure the humiliation in Christ's name, at the behest of one who has to wear a title like a sign around his neck to do the same. I know what you're thinking: "Hey, Mister Black Hat, what are YOU doing about it? How is your voice heard?"

Glad you asked. If you read this far, you have your answer.

Any questions?

18 Cadogan Place, London

Real estate agent Andrew Scott poses for the photographers inside an apartment for sale, in central London, Monday Jan 22, 2007. A six-meter (77 foot)-square former storage room slightly bigger than a prison cell in the heart of the city's exclusive Knightsbridge neighborhood is now on sale for 170,000 pounds (258,000), and that's before the cost of renovations. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

The Associated Press reports on the sale of a 77-square foot (or six square meters, depending on who you ask) apartment space, formerly a servant's quarters, in a fashionable Knightsbridge section of London, that is currently on the market for the equivalent of $335,000. It has been used for little more than storage in recent years, and could use a paint job, not to mention electricity. An additional $59,000 would be necessary to make it habitable.

It has a "coffin-sized" shower, and two hot plates with a sink for a kitchen.

When I lived in Georgetown, my landlady carved out a space roughly that size in her basement as a residence for her son. I found a combination kitchen unit in a Sears catalog that she bought for it, and the whole thing looked nice and cozy. And it worked.

Such conversions in a residential basement could provide an additional source of income for families, and on a massive scale, help to alleviate the severe shortage of housing in the USA, which especially suffers from a lack of single-room-occupancy (SRO) units. A complete kitchen would not be necessary. If you simply do not put in a complete stove, what is described here could be listed with many zoning boards as a "pantry." I should know, because that describes the studio apartment where I lived for eleven years. Of course, it was bigger than 77 square feet. The occupant would have to keep possessions to a minimum. Most homeless have no choice but to do that anyway.

Since the Party of Compassion otherwise known as the Democrats completely dominate political life in Arlington County, I'm surprised there are not more of these types of units, which would likely be much more affordable than our London example. Perhaps there should be, with tax incentives for those residents who provide them out of part of their basements. Then again, maybe they prefer seeing panhandlers.

Beats the hell outa me. More stories like this will appear in weeks to come.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Let "George" Do It

I was in the car at mid-afternoon today when, for reasons beyond even me, I switched from satellite radio to commercial FM, in particular the local classical music station, WGMS-FM. They were playing Lynard Skynard. Something was amiss. Then they played a 15-second tag that went something like: "There is still classical music in Washington. Switch to WETA at 90.9 FM. The management of Bonneville thanks you for your support. And now, we continue with the new sound of George 104!"


Let's back up a bit.

Washington has too many news and talk radio stations. They're all over the AM band, like everywhere else, and now they're invading the FM band. Back in 2005, WETA decided the Nation's capital could stand just one more, and switched from classical and fine arts programming to an all news/talk format. That left WGMS to carry the banner. Then WGMS switched their frequency from 103.5, giving it up for (what else?) WTOP, another news/talk channel, and switched over to 104.1, which has a weaker signal. Nice move, fellas.

Meanwhile, Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, gets together with Bonneville, owner of WGMS, about buying the station and changing it to an all-sports format. (What would they call the announcers, "jock jocks?") Well, the deal fell through, but Bonneville still wanted to change formats. So, at 3:00 in the afternoon yesterday, they broke the bad news to the world; what the world needs now, is one more oldies station. Not just any oldies station, mind you, but "the 70s, the 80s, and... whatever we want." Right, like they wouldn't dare leave every second of airplay up to marketing experts. (At least the first 104 days are commercial free. It's almost worth putting up with for that reason alone.)

Right about this time, the Board of Directors at WETA woke up from the Night of the Living Dead, long enough to make the bold leap that Washington could muddle through somehow with one less news/talk station. Bonneville donated their entire library of 15,000 classical music recordings to WETA, as well as (pending FCC approval) their now-defunct call letters for WETA's translator in Hagerstown, Maryland.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The bad news is, conventional radio in this country is still lacking in imagination, as if all the money is in "shooting toward the middle," at a time when there is considerable growth in "narrowcasting" in other forms of media. In a recent Washington Post Sunday Magazine piece, the problem with banking on the oldies format is becoming apparent with programming beginning with music from the 1970s. In the 50s and the 60s, a generation listened to more or less the same thing with popular music. But by the 70s, musical tastes in the youth market began to segment. Now, the generation which came of age in the 70s is becoming part of the "oldies" market. The problem is, it's no longer one identifiable market. That's when the cash cow begins to break down. It's no longer about "shooting toward the middle" when it's a moving target.

The good news is, I can listen to Chopin's Nocturnes in the evening without being jolted by an obnoxious car dealer commercial, since "a public radio station is more conducive to classical music than commercial radio." (Wow, you think?) That's as long as I'm ever stuck listening to FM instead of my beloved XM Satellite Radio. With XM, I can still be entertained by any one of dozens of distinct formats, depending on the mood I'm in. This includes the programming of WETA expatriates Robert Aubry Davis (star of "Millennium of Music," one of my faves), and his confrere Michael Goldsmith.

Life is good. At least in my car.

From Our Bulging "Fact is Stranger Than Truth" Files...

A Gregorian Chant Tribute to Celine Dion

Monday, January 22, 2007

Handyman (with black hat)

Today we begin a new occasional series of video clips on how to do certain household chores, or other clever skills that will amaze and mystify your friends. We'll start with how to jump start your car, which should come in very handy (if better late than never) across much of the USA this week.

Stay tuned for more fun stuff... right here, on the only Catholic weblog you will ever need.

Choice 2007

Later this year, the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is expected to meet in Washington. For the last two years, they have their usual "surprise guest," namely President Bush. Well, here's a little reality check that might be worth their attention, in the event they decide once again to trip all over themselves to give "Dubya" the star treatment. That may not happen after all, though. This year's keynote speaker is the Most Reverend Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, who has been quoted as saying he will not deny Communion to certain public officials who promote "abortion rights." (Oh, no, that sort of punishment is reserved for people who kneel for Communion. Duh...)

Meanwhile, later today, tens of thousands of well-behaved citizens from around the country will converge on Washington for the annual March for Life, in what has become -- whether anyone in the District government or the Washington Post cares to admit it or not -- the largest annual march in the Nation's capital.

Please join us in Washington for this year's 34th Annual March for Life.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Paul got a bass guitar for Christmas this past year. Actually, he got it on Saint Basil's Day (the first of January in the Byzantine calendar) this year. He had expressed interest in the instrument off and on in recent years, so this time I called him on it. Turned out to be a good idea. He's practicing his scales, and takes it with him when he's gone for overnighters with his buds. At least the scene above wasn't played out at our house.

Things are looking up.

Ad Random

My piece earlier this week entitled "Biting the Hand," about the PBS documentary Hand of God, is getting some attention, from no less than the film's director. (Okay, so I may have slipped a notice to the film's producer, but still...) The comments box also has a retort from someone who has had to endure the slings and arrows of hecklers while attending Mass at the cathedral in Boston.

FoxNews commentator Bill O'Reilly and Comedy Central's own Stephen Colbert have been sparring in the most recent news cycle. You can find two clips that bring the house down at Hot Air.

There is a fascinating piece on the historical role of the cantor at New Liturgical Movement. It should be required reading for everybody who waves their hands in front of Catholics on a Sunday morning and thinks they're doing them a favor. Also worth reading is a piece on historical models of the church musician by László Dobszay.

I have to move a couch tomorrow, an improvement over what I have now. It doesn't have a fold-out bed. But it's a "lazy-boy" type that has reclining sections. And it's also long enough that a grown man can fall asleep on it. That should come in handy for those nights I fall asleep watching a movie. I'm sure Paul will approve. He's such a party dog!

Some of you may remember that I'm studying JavaScript right now at the Art Institute. The professor is a software engineer from Haiti. He's a decent fellow, and explains things very well. But the subject is so damned dense that it's all I can do to focus. If you knew how many meds I was on, you'd know how tall an order that is. Right now I have a 3.8 GPA. I'd like to graduate with honors when this is over. I just might be thrilled with a "B" after this.

It's very cold across much of the USA these days. Not much snow, though, and I was getting reports of Scout units cancelling ski trips left and right. But the weatherman has been singing a different tune of late, and some of those trips are back on. Meanwhile, it's rechartering time again. This year, they're telling the unit commissioners that they have to visit their units to pick up the material (applications, rosters, hundreds of dollars in checks, that sort of thing), rather than conduct a central drop-off point. Apparently we don't look busy enough.

Art Buchwald died yesterday. He will be lauded by pundits and poets alike, especially here in Washington, where he was much loved. I can't say I followed his career very closely, but to me this longtime Georgetown resident is a symbol of a time when Georgetown was still Georgetown. The locals could see Art and his buddies, some famous and some merely remarkable, sitting in a local tavern or barber shop. I didn't know him, but I knew those who were cut from the same cloth. It's been fourteen years since I knew the city within a city as home, and I miss them all to this day.

And so it goes...

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Recently a website was brought to my attention which asks the eternal question: "Where the hell is Matt?" If you want to understand its importance to the world today, consider the following:

Matt is "a 30-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. He achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he'd saved to wander around the planet until it ran out... a travel buddy gave Matt the idea of dancing everywhere he went and recording it on his camera. This turned out to be a very good idea. Now Matt is quasi-famous as 'That guy who dances on the internet...'"

Looks to me as if he's on to something; indeed, that he could serve as an inspiration to all of us. Read all about Matt. Read his answers to the secrets of the universe. You'll see the "message" for yourself.

Which is why Matt gets this week's Tip of the Black Hat (see picture at right).

I don't do this for everybody, you know.

Return to Salem

Yesterday I posted "Biting the Hand," a documentary about a case of clerical sexual abuse in Salem, Massachusetts. I passed the link to Dom Bettinelli, who is from Salem, and I figured he'd have an opinion on it. I wasn't disappointed:

"Living in Salem, I’ve met a few men who knew those who were abused. At least one has told me that it was common knowledge, at least among his friends, what was going on and that quite a few adults had been told as well, but either they didn’t want to believe or they didn’t want to get involved. While there’s plenty of blame to lay upon the heads of men in holy orders, there are laypeople who will someday have to answer for their actions or inaction, as the case may be."

This comment doesn't surprise me in the least, and only reinforces what I've been saying for the last five years, not only in this blog, but to the would-be reformists who can't stop yammering about "accountability" to the laity, and demanding a role for themselves in the governance of the Church. The question for which I can't seem to get an answer is... who holds the laity accountable?

Take all the time you need, kids.

[UPDATE: Still think I'm crazy? Get a load of this: "A popular Fresno priest accused in a civil lawsuit of molesting an altar boy nearly two decades ago was welcomed back by his Fresno parish on Sunday [with] a standing ovation... Nine jurors in the civil trial concluded that Swearingen had molested former altar boy Juan Rocha. But jurors, split 7 to 5, could not agree on whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno knew that any molestation had occurred, leading the judge to declare a mistrial." I know situations more pathetic than this one. So do some people in Springfield, Massachusetts. More on that at a later date.]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Biting the Hand

Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

Last night, the documentary Hand of God was shown on public television in this area. The director, Joe Cultrera, describes the film, which tells a story in the life of his brother, and its effect on him and their family:

"Back in 1964, a Catholic priest in our hometown of Salem, Massachusetts had sexually abused Paul at the Catholic school we both attended. After spending thirty years in a dark box of silence, he initiated his own investigation, uncovering some startling abuses of body and power. This occurred many years before these deceptions hit the headlines... [the film is] an interpretive dance. A weird visual mambo trotted around a straightforward narrative of a crooked happening..."

Personally, I enjoyed the stories of youth, of innocence, of the Faith as more than going through the motions, but a way of life, the very stuff of life. Had I been born five years sooner, and had grown up closer to the city, I might have had a taste of the same jubilant experience. In fact, it almost made me wish I had grown up Italian, as if I was otherwise cheated somehow. But the ones who were really cheated were the family that was torn apart by the sick and twisted behavior of one priest, and the malfeasance of those confreres who covered for him.

The film betrayed more than the loss of innocence of Paul Cultrera; it betrayed the crisis of faith within his whole family. This is the unspoken and unacknowledged message in the film.

No, not because they refuse to put some bishop on a pedestal. You see, that's where people get confused. They assume "the Church" is just a bunch of guys in robes. They become just as much promoters of the clericalist mentality as... well, the clerics. When another Italian, Catherine of Siena, wrote her letters to the Holy Father, at one point referring to the clerics around him as "wolves and sellers of the Divine Grace," she was not attacking the Church Herself or Her teachings. So why did these people have to? Somehow, the idea that they were going to all this trouble, for all this time, because of something Christ Himself founded, escapes them from the moment the camera is rolling. It is completely arbitrary to assign blame to a system of belief that, in its essential nature, is being ignored in a given situation by its own agents. Part of the "visual mambo" to which the director refers, includes the dissonant juxtaposition of sacred images, some of it quite artfully done, but in other cases bordering on the sacrilegious. We can only assume, then, that the events portrayed, cut deep enough to cause such damage to souls, as to lead to despair.

Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

Something should be made very clear at this point. Saying the above does NOT make light of anyone's suffering, or anyone's outrage, or anything like that. (If you think that it does, you're probably incapable of complex thought, and should stop reading this immediately before you get a headache.) If anything, it does exactly the opposite. In a sense, you almost can't blame the Cultreras. After all, to whom can they turn for the real deal? Everybody around them in a robe or a habit is in somebody's pocket. The conspiracy extends even to a Sister who could probably get away with dancing around a tree and praising Gaia, more easily than spilling the beans about some pervert on the payroll. It's as if the whole town of Salem was being taken over by the Pod People before they could get the word out that aliens had landed.

Near the end of the film, Joe Cultrera is confronted by a cleric outside the chancery office. It is here that we realize one aspect of the problem which, to his credit, the director uncovers: namely, that we're not really dealing with very smart guys here. The fact is, they exist in every bureaucracy, and this writer has met more than his share after a quarter of a century with the Federal government.

The scenario is all too familiar. Some middle-management operative needs to cover for himself, by covering up a problem over which he has little control, but for which he knows he will have to provide an explanation. So he reaches in desperation for a short-term solution. The problem goes away, at least for him. There are three deficiencies with this approach; 1) others in a similar position, and in the same environment, are solving their short-term problems in the same way, 2) as a short-term solution that leaves a long-term residue, it has a cumulative effect, especially when combined with those of others, and 3) others outside the sphere of influence are adversely affected by the consequences of 1 and 2. And so, the operative in question never had a handle on the problem to begin with. Yet he is consoled by the knowledge that he will have moved on when this matter comes back and bites somebody on the hindquarters.

Or so he thinks.

On the night Christ was betrayed, the apostles went running scared. Their successors, at one time or another, have been running scared ever since. I'll give credit to Joe Cultrera and company where it is due; they caught a few in the act of running, literally. I'll also give his brother Paul credit where it is due; if the film is any indication, he probably could have turned out a lot worse. To know that is to know that God works His Grace into the picture somehow, even in the midst of unspeakable evil. Saint Paul reminded us of how that might happen.

Scene from the documentary Hand of God directed by Joe Cultrera

But I don't have to believe their view of the Church Herself or Her teachings to acknowledge their pain. Nor am I required to excuse the incompetence of errant shepherds as a litmus test of orthodoxy. I am not a Catholic for the sake of Joe or Paul Cultrera, any more than I am for Richard Lennon or John McCormick.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Critical Mass: Fulfilling the Council

Our resident Pertinacious Papist, Dr Philip Blosser, has reprinted an excellent article from The Latin Mass magazine, entitled "Fulfilling the Council: Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Traditionalist Movement." Since the 15th of January appears to have come and gone without the "imminent" promulgation of the motu proprio, it might be worth contemplating the present situation in terms of "what do we do now?" Look for a few surprises in the middle of the essay, especially a gem from no less than Dom Guéranger. (Question: Does DG imply that the centuries before Trent, as opposed to after, were when the liturgy of the West was in its fullest flower? Discuss.)

C S Lewis once said that he wrote the books he did because no one else would write them. So I refer to this excellent piece at my site because Michael P Foley already wrote it.

Besides, I get an excuse to use this cool animation. Thanks, Doc.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Return to Sealand

Last week, I reported on the proposed sale of a "principality" off the coast of England, in the form of a World War II anti-aircraft platform.

After posting the story, I remembered the phenomenon of "cyber nations" that I happened to discover last summer, where website owners would invent their own sovereignties, with histories, governments, stuff like that.

Then I started writing. Continuously. By the time I finished a few days later, I had written a long and detailed draft of a Wikipedia-style description of an island nation in the North Atlantic, located about one hundred miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. (No, it's not Sable Island.) There are a few things to left to research (as things like geography and history require a certain plausiblity), but it could make for a great website someday.

Or I could just forget the whole thing and live in the present. Is that really the choice here?


Friday, January 12, 2007

Okay, by a slim margin. I'm just sayin'...

Ignore the problem, and it'll go away, right?

Another installment in our occasional "Catholics are stupid!" series.

I lived in the parish twenty years ago, before my first wife ran out on me and the marriage tanked.

Father Francis (not his real name) left no doubt as to who was in charge. If pro-life activists left leaflets on cars around election time, he'd call the police and have them arrested for trespassing. No problem, though; the parish down the road had the same leaflet for a bulletin insert. The liturgy was to be done "the way the Church expects us to do it." In his universe, that meant if there were only four readings before the Gospel called for with the Easter Vigil (usually before sundown), then by golly, that's all that was read. The place was locked tighter than a drum on Sunday afternoon before the last car pulled out of the lot. And the lay readers were expected to read some dumb-@$$ invitation to shake hands with the person next to you before Mass.

That was before I showed up.

As a young husband and father in my thirties, I was a brash and opinionated sort of young man, not wise and discreet in speech and manner (ahem!) like I am now. I called him on the phone and told him this sort of behavior before the start of Mass was completely inappropriate, and suggested we discuss it. He was absolutely aghast at the suggestion, coming from a mere layman. That's when I insisted we discuss it. Still in a state of shock from my audacity, he relented. That's when I contemplated a more eloquent compromise of an introduction, which I read to him during the meeting. He liked it much better. But he also felt the need to remind me: "It's my parish." So I reminded him: "It's my parish too, Father, and I have a stake in what happens here."

When the meeting ended, I knew who wore the red stripe, and he knew he wasn't dealing with an idiot. The dumb-@$$ invitation was soon dropped from the program. And he never treated me that way again.

I wish I could say the same for others. One evening I attended a meeting of the liturgy committee (a phenomenon which, in most of my experience, is an excuse for untrained people with time on their hands). It was presided over by a kind, elderly woman, who appeared oblivious to the pastor over her shoulder, shifting in his seat, yawning, and making no effort to hide his sheer boredom at the whole affair. The Pod People in attendance didn't seem to notice either. Of course, the chance to attend the parish council meeting was the big time! According to the parish secretary, you had to get "Father's permission" to grace its presence. Oh, give me a break! So I called His Majesty, who confessed: "Well, it's not that you need my permission; it's just that I don't know why anyone would want to attend." It was one occasion where I took his word for it.

He could be strangely inappropriate at times, in a way that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what you missed. Once a high-ranking prelate came to celebrate Mass, and Father was the master of ceremonies. He escorted the prelate to the ambo for the Gospel and homily as would have been called for, then proceeded right past him to head out the door, where he remained for the duration of the homily. But he and I got along fine, I suspect because I only got involved up to a point. He held several important positions in the diocese -- "I like to be kept busy," he used to say -- and he was also known for uncommon generosity, especially in helping his brother priests.

Once I got a little note from him, praising my liturgical role: "Would that all were as well prepared as you." This from a man who had little regard for the trappings of ecclesiastical ceremony.

Eventually, my son was eligible for kindergarten, and I wanted him in a Catholic school. So I transferred to a parish outside my area of domicile that had one -- with the kind written approval of my soon-to-be-former pastor.

In the years that followed, Father was transferred to a parish closer to town himself. The story goes that one day a man approached him, claiming that he was molested by the Father as a young boy, and that the news was about to go public. The Father didn't take it too well. In fact, he was already suffering from frequent bouts of melancholy. This revelation only made matters worse. A leave of absence, and the attempts at intervention by family members, all were not enough to prevent the poor man from buying a gun, and putting an end to his misery.

I still have the little note. I'm also still unpacking from the move. Eventually I'll find it, and put it in a frame. I have no idea whether or not he was guilty of the misdeeds of which he was accused. There are probably people out there who know something I don't, but I can't vouch for them, and the central figure in all this is too busy standing before a Higher Court to be overly concerned. As to life in this world, it is a strange sort of justice to drive a man to the point beyond human hope. I don't just mean this guy; I also mean whomever he hurt. Beyond that, I don't have a lot of answers here.

But I wonder sometimes, to this very day, what would have happened, had the Pod People in that committee meeting acted with the true definition of charity, and politely corrected the priest on the spot. Maybe such attempts had been tried and found wanting, maybe not, I don't know. Maybe they were just too damn chicken! Either way, in the entire magnum opus of Catholic teaching and tradition, there is no aspect of the priestly office that requires anyone to endure, much less ignore, the objectionable behavior of any man, just because of the way he wears his collar.

I don't know much, but I know that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tigger Revisited

Following our entry last Monday entitled "Tigger: Getting Out of Character," it would appear that the "Tiggergate" episode is revealing another side to the story -- as in WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. Seems the young would-be victim was pulling on the character's costume in such a way as to restrict his air circulation. Having hospitality escorts accompany the animals (as they did for us at my old stomping ground, Kings Island) would have prevented the incident in the first place.

Now Disney has to go toe-to-toe with the Teamsters. (Sigh!) Sure brings back memories...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jefferson and the Qu'ran

President Thomas Jefferson

Recently, Keith Ellison (D-MN) was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives. He wasn't sworn in on a Bible. Now, Calvin Coolidge refused to be sworn in on a Bible when he became President in 1923, so there's a precedent here -- sort of. Except that Ellison went a step farther, and was sworn in on a copy of the Qu'ran. It should surprise no one that Ellison is a Muslim. It should surprise everyone that there is no hard and fast rule about swearing in on a Bible, simply time-honored custom.

I'm not saying there should or should not be a rule, I'm just saying...

Ellison used a copy of the Qu'ran that was owned by President Thomas Jefferson currently held by the Library of Congress. He might be interested to know how Jefferson acquired it, and especially what Jefferson thought of Islam.

He might have thought twice. Slate magazine thought of it, though, and Christopher Hitchens elaborates in its pages.

Jefferson and John Adams … went to call on Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. They asked him by what right he extorted money and took slaves in this way. As Jefferson later reported to Secretary of State John Jay, and to the Congress:

The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.


(H/T to Allahpundit of Hot Air.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Not available on eBay -- yet!

The world's smallest country is for sale. No, not Vatican City.

The coat of arms of Sealand, an offshore platform with claims to sovereignty.

Reuters reports that Sealand, an industrial platform off the English shore in international waters, owned by a retired military officer who purchased it and declared its sovereignty (and himself its ruling prince), is on the market. The buyer gets a former World War II anti-aircraft base, which has its own coat of arms, flag, stamps, currency, and national anthem.

Prospects are for an online casino or an offshore bank. No terra firma, and no word on the price.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tigger: Getting Out of Character

As some of you know, for two summers out of high school (1973 and 1974), I was an animal character at Kings Island Amusement Park. They were probably the best two summers of my life. So when I saw the report of a counterpart at Disney World punching out some kid posing with him for pictures, I took a good look at the video clip the whole world has seen by now. I suggest the geniuses at Disney take a closer look.

Pause the clip about halfway, to see the character's side view. Notice the tail. I know that tail, because the last time I looked, Hanna-Barbara's "Scooby Doo" has one exactly like it. It's an erect piece mounted on a harness that is strapped around the waist and groin area of the person inside, before the outer costume is put on. If you pull down on the tail from the outside, the base end on the inside goes up. Guess where it goes if the wearer is a male.


Add to that the poor visibility (the flesh-colored part of the animal's jaw is see-through foam), and the one-hundred-plus degree temperatures inside the unit (which is why they're only out for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, at least back in my day), and you have an accident waiting to happen. Especially when some kid decides you're a cuddly little punching bag. Sometimes they don't even realize they're hurting you. And since you're not allowed to speak while in costume...

How do you get around this problem? Easy. At KI, our guys were escorted by young ladies from the Guest Relations department while in the field. These gals were chosen for appearance (oh yes!), charm, poise, and the ability to handle small crowds of tourists. Assuming there isn't more to this story (and there usually is, so what the hey), this incident could have been avoided by park managers looking one step ahead. Disney is the king of the amusement park trade, the one which sets the standard for everyone else. If they haven't thought of this stuff, why has everyone else? I hope that guy gets his day in court. His explanation probably won't surprise this retired animal character.

[UPDATE: This piece got picked up by Allahpundit of Hot Air. Probably because (ahem!) I sent it to him. Viewing the combox, some of the respondents are on to something. The clip shows the kid's left arm reach behind the character. It doesn't show what that arm was doing. And so, the plot thickens.]

To offend the French, fondle a slice of cheese.

Le Camembert: used to get someone to shut up, don’t try this on your mother.
"Le Camembert: used to get someone to shut up, don’t try this on your mother."

My ancestors came to America in the mid-19th century, for the most part, from France -- the region of Alsace-Lorraine, to be exact. The most likely reason they came was the economic situation brought about by years of political instability. I'm guessing there was one other reason.

The London daily Telegraph is reporting that the French, especially in Paris, have a way of showing how rude they are.

"Aware that it can do very little to change the stereotype of the arrogant Frenchman, it wants to help discerning visitors blend in by using the same body language... C'est So Paris, produced by the Ile-de-France regional committee of tourism, lists the gestures under the colloquial title 'Cop the Parisian Attitude.'"

Or, as we say in the Midwest, "snotty."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Guadalupe Revisited


Last month, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wrote a short piece on why that particular image of Mother Mary was special to me. There was much more I would have written, mostly to lay to rest the claims of this image by some radical feminists as a "goddess" figure (not to mention other comments of mine that were... well, grossly misinterpreted). For example, her prominence in front of the image of the sun would imply pre-eminence, as if to supplant that diety. In addition, her hands folded in prayer and head bowed as in supplication to a Higher Authority. Also, if you look closely, she is crushing the serpent's head with her heel, as foretold in Revelations. The serpent was a diety of the Aztecs, from whose live and bloody sacrifices the commonfolk were liberated, following their conversion to Christianity.

At the time this was written, Julie D of Happy Catholic provided a more detailed analysis of the image. It is very worthy of study.

In many parts of the world, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has supplanted the attention given to goddess images, including in Mexico. Nevertheless, in other parts of Latin America, as well as the Caribbean, there persists among the working classes a strange mix of folk religion, one that weaves together both Christian and aboriginal images and practices.

Meanwhile, here in the more "civilized" part of the world -- Raleigh, North Carolina, to be exact -- the goddess archetype has taken on a strange new twist: "A North Carolina artist intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line."

Oh yes, you really have to see it to believe it. (I considered illustrating it here, and then I thought... NAHHH!)

The artist, 43-year-old Kate Kretz, describes the process of creating this piece, both at her website, as well as her weblog. I honestly do not believe she meant to offend anyone, as this endeavor appears to be driven more by militant naivete than pure malevolence. Sometimes when people see an institution or a phenomenon as big as Catholicism is -- one-sixth of the world population, one-fifth of the USA population -- they foolishly presume it to be fair game. In so doing, it never occurs to them that there may be more to that phenomenon than a mere collection of venerated images, a plaything for their vain attempt at kitsch. There may be a belief in something greater than themselves.

This is more introspection than some people can handle. And more respect for what is not understood than some people can muster.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

"Christus Mansionem Benedicat!"


"May Christ this dwelling bless."

These are the words of blessing as the inscription honoring the visit of the Magi is written over the door of the household. There is much more to this feast, but we're letting do most of the heavy lifting for this year. Click on the image above for the first of two pages (both of which are worth reading) devoted to the event that closes out the Yuletide celebration.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What's all this hoopla about the first female Speaker of the House? Did they get this excited about the first woman on the Supreme Court? H*** no, 'cuz O'Connor was nominated by Reagan. They're just looking for an excuse to show off. Let's not wait for these idiots to do some serious damage.

Personally, I'll be impressed if they can pass the Federal budget before their next recess.

Old Christmas is past, Twelfth Night is the last...

When I was growing up in a small town in Ohio, they had a unique way of disposing of used Christmas trees. They'd take them to some field at the edge of town, stack them in a big pile, and commemorate "Twelfth Night" with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." Of course, my parents didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen. Besides, the town was (and still is) pretty much run by Methodists, and this was back when you didn't celebrate the holydays with -- well, Protestants.

These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. Besides, reading this week's edition of the old hometown paper, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality: "Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch." That kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the gifts of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading them on your lawn or walking all over them?

But before the killing is a done deal, my Aunt Shirley sent me this little gem in defense of Christmas from, of all people, a Jewish guy. It was written and recited by him on a CBS Sunday Morning commentary:

Here with a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important?

I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. If this is what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away. I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.

I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to. In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking. Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this Happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events, terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK. Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK. Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW." Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us. Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards... honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Yo, Ben! How does posting it here rate, compared to spamming everyone I ever met with an e-mail address? It better be okay, because this week's tip of the Black Hat goes out to yourself. L'chiam!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This is CNN?

Image courtesy of HotAir

Finally, somebody has given mwbh a reason to pay attention to one of the longest-running hissy-fits since the Hatfields and McCoys both went at it. Of course, those families probably knew how to spell what they were doing. In any case, this episode is a reminder to the rest of us, that there are still some things that money can't buy.

Like class.

Why This Man Should Shut The H*** Up


I used to enjoy watching the 700 Club for its insightful commentary on current events. Then the founder Pat Robertson started claiming a little too much insight on both current and future events. That's when he lost me. Now, he's predicting a terrorist attack sometime this year, which will result in a "mass killing." He elaborates: "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

When you stop to think about it, it could happen anywhere. And not necessarily in a town which has gradually become a virtual police state in the five years since 9-11, where even a Piper Cub couldn't get through the no-fly zone without getting blown out of existence. And the good Lord isn't obliged to warn us any more than he already has, let alone to... well, a Protestant.

If it did happen here in Washington, while I'm at my desk, I'd already be toast. If it happened and I was out of town, I'd probably stay there, since everyone I knew in town would be toast. I just hope my loved ones get away in time. Someone's gotta be left to pray for me, right? We understand as Catholics, that we can be called at anytime. For us, that moment would be "the end of the world as we know it." Will we feel fine? Whether we do or not, why should we listen to this clown, when we've got Our Lady of Fatima?

I mean, God talks to me all the time, but I'm not one to brag.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Sooner or later, beginning our reference to the calendar year with "two thousand and..." is going to get cumbersome. A century ago, this would have been "Nineteen-Oh-Seven," and the shorthand of "'07" would be called simply "Ought-Seven."

Am I the only one who thinks of these things?

I got a portable DVD player for Christmas. It's about the size of a portable CD player, which will come in handy while waiting forever on the subway. This is likely once I start school next week. Last quarter I studied what was called "Digital Photographic Production," which is basically a Photoshop class. I had fun. I got an "A." Having used the program with minimal training for over a decade worked to my advantage. Starting next week I will study "Introduction to Scripting Languages," which is mostly one language, namely JavaScript. Unfortunately, the professor is of the "adjunct" variety. That means he works during the day, and teaches at night. Say goodbye to two of my weeknights for the next two and a half months.

In thinking of the entire year, there are some resolutions to consider.

One of them concerns this weblog. There won't be as many strictly religious topics as in the past. Usually it's well over half. Truth is, most of the market for that is saturated by people with nothing else to talk about. Even people as brilliant as I am get edged out of the market, and who am I to argue? Fortunately, I've discovered what works, at least for me. Once a week, there will be a short essay on a current topic in matters of faith. And most important, once a month, there will be a good long rant.

As to other resolutions...

I used to play the guitar more than I do now. 2002 was a good year for hangin' with my boys from down south, and getting together some pretty good chops, till those uppity old hags among the local promoters got in the way. It hasn't been quite the same since. Seems a gaggle of uppity middle-aged, middle class, queen-size white gals are more of an authority on the "authentic Louisiana experience" than... well, guys from Louisiana. Beats the hell outa me! We'll have to do an end-run down Looziana way this year, I do reckon. I also intend to find one or two others for a possible collaboration. It's a tall order, since I haven't had much luck in the past with bands. Meanwhile, I got my son a bass guitar for Christmas. (UPDATE: Actually, he was out of town on Christmas, so I gave it to him on New Year's Day, celebrated in the Eastern Churches as the Feast of St Basil the Great, and a date when Greeks are known to give gifts. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Every now and then, he'd express some curiosity about it. Now he's got himself a resolution too, I made sure of that.

I haven't done any serious code in two years. In the meantime, the standard has gone from HTML 4.01 to XHTML. They've even stopped teaching tables at the first-year level, opting for fully loaded cascading style sheets (CSS) at the get-go. Obviously some remedial work is in order.

Then there's getting this house in order, which means unpacking boxes from my library, and getting rid of stuff I've accumulated for one fool reason or another -- the natural consequence, not only of being a packrat by nature, but of having an abundance of personal interests. Being a renaissance man is not nearly as easy as I make it look. It's amazing what can fit into a house of less than a thousand square feet. Equally amazing what you can get along without.

My work with Scouting has to be worked around school, but if I got better organized, it might count for something. I'll concentrate on what can be done well. I want to earn the "Arrowhead Award" this year, which is a training recognition. I've also got some serious reading to do in the area of native American ceremonials. If I'm going to advise a ceremonial team, it's the least I can do.

I will seek out an opportunity to be thoroughly trained in the assistance of the classical Roman liturgy, with the hope of one day being a bona fide master of ceremonies. Depending on events in the larger scene, someone with suitable credentials may be making a trip to this area. Meanwhile, a custom tailored cassock [with its own cinture] might be in order this year. (Oh, and a rabat, since a decent collar makes for a neater appearance. They let laymen wear those, don't they?) People tell me I look good in black. Sometimes when I'm on duty, I get called "Father" a lot. Don't ask me why. Just in case, though, I'll hold off on the biretta. I may begin to confuse even myself.

In September of '01, I weighed 220 pounds, the most ever. Just two years later, I was down to 185. One and a half years after the low point, I was back up to my peak weight. This year, I need to lose one pound a week till there's nothing left but the real me. Now, how to do that without resorting to periodic anxiety attacks in the middle of the night -- that, quoteth the Bard, "is the rub."

By this time, I've seen virtually every "Law and Order" episode as a syndicated rerun. It's time to cut back. (I really miss "Lennie.") More music, less video. My attention span will be forever grateful.

I promised somebody I'd learn Filipino, aka Tagalog.

Finally, there is also one other resolution, to be kept strictly "in pectore."

I think that just about covers it.