Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should auld acquaintance be forgot ...

“What a long strange trip it's been.” And just in case it wasn't strange enough, we present SOCK PUPPETS (albeit with a mild content warning)!

This is the occasion for us to look back upon a year that has passed. In the case of this year, we are called upon to look back upon a decade. In my case, I realize how much difference there is between being forty-five and fifty-five.

I began this century living in a basement studio apartment, bitter over my exile in a region of cold-hearted self-important souls, with barely the time of day for themselves, never mind anyone else. My career only beginning to show signs of life after a long, cold winter, I was resigned to joining those with "lives of quiet desperation." Mine was a lonely existence, and I lived for the three or four times a year I would return to Cincinnati, to live vicariously through those whom I had left behind. In the interim, I would go to another city along the eastern seaboard, as far from the Beltway as I could get without taking time off.

It helped me to avoid the pain of estrangement from my son, who was getting into trouble, the kind of trouble that is inevitable for a boy without the guidance of his father. He didn't want to see me, and his mother's only concern with the custody agreement was my financial obligation. Even my own family was warning me of the prospect, that I may have to write him off.

Deo gratias! That never happened.

But somewhere, something did happen. I got involved in the world around me, or at least found the venue where I could. At the decade's beginning, there was a group outside of Baltimore running a zydeco dance class, and it sort of went from there. That social scene lasted about two years, which in my experience, is an acceptable shelf life. People come and go, they drift from one thing to another, and this was no exception. But it was enough of a catalyst for me to have a life again, a life in my own back yard. Then my son emerged from a rehab program asking for me to be in his life again.

I had always said that by the time I was fifty, things should be right about where I wanted them to be. To some extent, that actually happened.

With the management at work improving more in my favor, they agreed to send me to school part-time for a diploma in web design. After at least two revisions to the curriculum in five years, and two department heads coming and going, the interim head informed me that I had completed my coursework. I will submit a portfolio in the spring or summer. Maybe they won't change the requirements again, but the faculty is mighty self-assured for a group of people who can't seem to get their own act together. And they wonder why some students have no respect for them.

But events often take on a life of their own. The management needed another person with experience in video editing. I convinced the division director that I had the aptitude, that all I needed was the training. With tongue in cheek and fingers crossed, he relented. The result was my best annual evaluation in well over a decade, a most favorable assessment by the new political leadership of my agency, and the prospect of a renewed career -- if I could only keep up with it.

Outside the office, things were changing as well. In 2004, I once again put on the uniform of Boy Scouting, after a hiatus of three and a half decades. As a Scout Commissioner, my task is to function as a liaison between individual Scout units under my care, and the parent organization. The role of the commissioner is often one of debate among adult volunteers in Scoutiing, many of whom see it as an intrusion into unit life, an unnecessary appendage. But while the history of Scouting does not bear this out, they are resistant to interference, real or imagined. Even among my fellow-commissioners, I have yet to find my proper niche. But I'm still in the game.

Three years ago, when it appeared that the traditional form of the Roman Mass would lose restrictions on its normative use, I entered conversations with a local pastor who intended to introduce it to his parish, about the prospect of being his Master of Ceremonies. In October of 2007, I began assisting the priest in this manner nearly every Sunday. The chance to work with some great priests, as well as an exceptional group of young men, has been a source of great satisfaction for me, to say nothing of being so close to the altar of God.

I bought a townhouse in September of 2005, in a neighborhood of other townhouses built in the early 1940s just west of the Pentagon. It is a wonderful place to live. Looking around at a pile of books, of all manner of subjects, I realize that the time is overdue to get the house in order. The goal for the coming year is to have a housewarming, however overdue.

Tonight, "Sal" and I will head to a Latin dance nightclub down the street. Together with people we barely know, we will welcome the new year, and the promise of new life emerging from darkness.

What can I say? Fiat voluntas tua!

Christ-Mass: Day 7 (St Sylvester)

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming ...”

Allowing for corruptions evolving the text as described earlier, the "seven swans a-swimming" completes the first seven days being represented by birds, in honor of the seven sacraments. Don't ask me why.

Today is the Feast of Saint Sylvester, who was Pope from January 31, 314, until his death on this day in 335. He was the first bishop of Rome to refer to himself as "Pope," or "Father (Papa)." His reign would have occurred during that of Emperor Constantine (see image above left), as well as the First Council of Nicea in 325, which composed the Nicene Creed proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. (Sylvester did not attend this council, but sent a legation.) He is also one of the ten longest-reigning popes in history.

In present-day Germany, this day of New Year's Eve is known as "Silvester." Other countries know the day better by the saints name as well (such as "la Saint-Sylvestre" in France.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To drive the cold winter away ...

“Is barking up the wrong tree really that much worse than barking up the correct tree? They both seem like a huge waste of time to me.”

-- “Weird Al” Yankovic

I'm off work all this week, and while I'm not following the blogosphere as closely as usual, I thought I'd jot down a few things.

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Readers will note that there has been little of topical interest here lately. When even a guy like the American Papist takes a holiday, it's time to do the same. This clip of the Holy Father being accosted at a procession for Christmas Midnight Mass is the latest thing author Thomas Peters reported. That was last Friday. Watch for someone in a red shirt at 00:40. From everything that's been reported, security officials have dealt with this woman before.

One can imagine the role the Apostles took on for themselves, when Our Lord would be surrounded by people wanting something -- a miracle, or just to have their problems solved. His Vicar is no less prevailed upon. "If only I could touch the hem of his garment, I would be healed." (Matthew 9:21)

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The Postal Service has announced that it will release a first class stamp in the coming year, to honor Mother Teresa. I'll be sure to stock up.

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The President and his family did not go to church for Christmas this year, and it is not clear that they will be attending church regularly during his tenure. Some have taken him to task, citing his obligation to set a proper example. This would come as a surprise to most Presidents in our history. According to Wikipedia: "Most presidents have been formal members of a particular church or religious body, and a specific affiliation can be assigned to every president from Garfield on. For many earlier presidents, however, formal church membership was forestalled until they left office; and in several cases a president never joined any church." In terms of actual stated belief, and formal affiliation notwithstanding, three of the four whose images appearing on Mount Rushmore -- Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln -- might be more accurately described as Deists. The point is, and aside from failing to convert to the One True Faith that is Catholicism -- hey, this is supposed to be a Catholic blog, right? I'm just sayin' -- the critics don't have cause for complaint.

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I'm reluctant to travel by commercial air for the foreseeable future. The way it is now, some idiot can stuff his underwear for explosives, and then millions of us can face the prospect of being inspected there. What's next, one hundred percent cavity searches? Do you know what it's like to have a complete stranger go through your personal things without a warrant? What if he damages something, is he responsible? I'll bet if members of Congress had to go through this, we'd see a few changes made.

We'll see what tomorrow brings, won't we?

Christ-Mass: Day 6 (Day Within Octave)

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying ...”

Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. As our ancestors made the transformation from hunting and gathering to settling and farming, they found they could keep a supply of them penned up, and with sufficient breeding, to supply eggs and meat for a period of time. Thus did geese emerge as a common barnyard fowl in England.

Katy Sirls is an English professor at Dixie College in St George, Utah, where she teaches English classes at Dixie College. After completing her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing, with an emphasis on fiction, she published one of her academic essays.

After several months overseas, Stacia is ecstatic to return home for Christmas. It’s been too long since she’s seen her boyfriend, Luke and she longs to be in his arms again. She even has a seductive and sexy “present” planned for their first night together.

With arrangements to celebrate the holidays with Luke’s family, Stacia soon discovers her plans are going to be quite difficult to carry out. Her first night back is spent getting to know his beloved pet geese. It seems as though their night of passion will have to wait—until, that is, she discovers Luke has plans of his own.

Stacia soon finds herself following the mysterious trail of presents Luke has left her: Christmas-wrapped goose eggs, each one with a clue that will lead her to the next... and, ultimately, to a night she’ll never forget!

Inasmuch as this is an ordinary octave day of Christmastide, with no saints to be commemorated, this is the best we could do.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christ-Mass: Day 5 (St Thomas of Canterbury)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gold rings ...”

The fifth day's gift of gold rings (or "golden rings" in some versions) refers not to gold jewelry, but to a characteristic of the ring-necked pheasant. This becomes significant later. Day after tomorrow. You'll have to wait for that.

But you don't have to wait for today's feast, which in the western Church is that of St Thomas à Becket, also known as Thomas of Canterbury, where he was Archbishop at the time of his death. Born around 1162, he became the confidant and High Chancellor of King Henry II of England. Then the King got the idea for Thomas, already an archdeacon, to be consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. This did not have the effect for which the King had hoped. Eventually, Thomas was embroiled in conflict with Henry over the rights and privileges of the Church, and was assassinated by the King's followers in Canterbury Cathedral, on this day in 1170. He was canonized less than four years later by Pope Alexander III.

This story became the subject of a stage play, and eventually the great 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry. It won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and received eleven other nominations, including Best Actor (Burton and O'Toole).

Following an extensive restoration process, the original 1964 film was made available in limited theatrical re-release in 2007. It is currently available on DVD. More information is available at the website:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Childermas Revisited

Here is what happened on this day after 1954 (a "Marian Year" by the way):

* On this day in 1973, Alexander Solzhenitsyn published "Gulag Archipelago," an expose of the Soviet prison system.

* On this day in 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

* On this day in 1982, Nevell Johnson Jr, a black man, was mortally wounded by a police officer in a Miami video arcade, setting off three days of race-related disturbances that left another man dead.

* On this day in 1989, Alexander Dubcek, the former Czechoslovak Communist leader who was deposed in a Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, was named president of the country's parliament.

* On this day in 1999, Clayton Moore, television's "Lone Ranger," died in West Hills, Calif., at age 85.

* On this day in 2004, in New York City, activist and author Susan Sontag died at age 71, and actor Jerry Orbach died at age 69.

* On this day in 2005, former top Enron Corporation accountant Richard Causey pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and agreed to help pursue convictions against Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

* On this day in 2008, the Detroit Lions completed an 0-16 season, the NFL's worst ever, with a 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

* On this day in 2009, eleven people (who deserve my sincere thanks) showed up for my party, and a generous benefactor other than me picked up the tab. The rest of you lost out on that one, SUCKAS!!! The staff of the Clarendon Silver Diner did a magnificent job, and I actually got presents. That's right, kids, people actually put thought into this. What's more, I've had three, maybe four birthday parties in my life, and this was my first bi-lingual birthday party.

It also turns out that a birthday of twin digits (22, 33, 44, et cetera) has some significance in Asian culture. Something about good luck for the year ahead.

I could live with that.

(FIRST IMAGE: A rare photo of the Salus Populi Romani, crowned by Pius XII in 1953. The crown inscription reads: "Pius XII PM Deiparae Reginae Kal MCMLIV A Mar." Pope Pius XII to the Queen Mother of God, Marian Year 1954. After the renovation, the crown was deleted and is now in the museum of the sacristy of Saint Peter. The picture today in Rome exists therefore only without the crown.)

Christ-Mass: Day 4 (Childermas Day)

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds ...”

Actually, they would have been referred to as "colly birds," meaning a form of blackbird. This is one of a number of lines that had become corrupted over the centuries. But enough about the song. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the infant males under the age of two in Bethlehem that King Herod had put to death, in the hopes of doing away with the newborn King, which he saw as a threat to his power (Matthew 2:16-18). Obviously he didn't know the half of it.

In Spainish-speaking countries (including, uh, Spain), this is traditionally a day given to playing practical jokes, much like April Fools' Day elsewhere. The pranks are known as "inocentadas" and their victims are called "inocentes," or alternatively, the pranksters are the "inocentes." Don't ask me why.

This day is often significant for a number of other reasons...

* On this day in 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated.

* On this day in 1768, Taksin the Great was crowned king of the newly established Thonburi Kingdom in the new capital at Thonburi, present-day Thailand.

* On this day in 1832, John Calhoun became the first Vice President of the USA to resign.

* On this day in 1836, at the Old Gum Tree near present-day Adelaide, Royal Navy Rear–Admiral John Hindmarsh read a proclamation establishing the British province of South Australia.

* On this day in 1846, Iowa became the 29th of our United States.

* On this day in 1856, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States (1913-21), was born.

* On this day in 1869, William Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio, obtained a patent for chewing gum.

* On this day in 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge, spanning the Firth of Tay in Scotland between Dundee and the Wormit, collapsed during a violent storm while a train was passing over it, killing all on board.

* On this day in 1905, Earl "Fatha" Hines, the father of modern jazz piano, was born, as was the forerunner of the NCAA, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States.

* On this day in 1922, Stan Lee, the great American comic book writer, was born.

* On this day in 1937, Composer Maurice Ravel died in Paris.

* On this day in 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

* On this day in 1948, The Douglas DC-3 airliner NC16002, en route from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida, disappeared in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

* On this day in 1954, both actor Denzel Washington, as well as professional wrestler Lanny Poffo, were born. So was I. See the next entry (below if on main page) for details.

(IMAGE: The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, 1488, by Matteo di Giovanni.)

“Tonight, tonight, won’t be just any night ...”


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While we're on the subject of me today, at about seven o'clock this morning, I turned fifty-five years old.

It has been the experience of most people, that if they hang around long enough, they do get old, even die, or something. So we're gonna have a party, and you're invited. Tonight at 7:30 pm, devoted fans of man with black hat with absolutely nothing better to do are meeting yours truly at the Silver Diner near the Clarendon Metro Station (3200 Wilson Blvd) in Arlington, Virginia.

* Hear waiters singing birthday greetings while lighting a cupcake!

* Listen to father and son engage each other in witty repartee!

* Watch in horror as other customers wish they could be me!

* And so much more!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christ-Mass: Day 3 (St John’s Day)

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens ...”

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” (“ο μαθητης ον ηγαπα ο Ιησους”) was, for a time, banished under Emperor Domition to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This was before returning to Ephesus to live to a ripe old age. While John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death (living to be nearly one hundred years old, according to tradition), it was not for want of his enemies trying. Upon an attempt to kill John by poisoning his wine, the evil substance miraculously took the form of a serpent, as it dissipated from his cup.

Today, families can celebrate the Feast of Saint John by drinking to the health of each other, based on a German tradition known as Johannissegen. Fisheaters has a recipe for mulled wine that is customary to the occasion. Before the evening meal begins, the head of the house recites the blessing over the wine, as recorded in the Rituale Romanum:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that every one who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. (Amen.)

He then lifts his glass toward the next person (or touches the rim of his glass to theirs), saying, “I drink you the love of Saint John.” The receiver says in response, “I thank you for the love of Saint John.” The second person turns to the third, and the process is repeated all around the table.

That's the long form. The short form is where all present clink their glasses together saying, “Drink the love of Saint John.” This is especially handy for young children who cannot wait to chow down.

To each his own.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dateline Dhaka

We just got a note from Dhaka News, originating out of the city of the same name, the capital of Bangladesh, and the rickshaw capital of the world. They want to let the world know how they celebrate Christmas. They actually spell it "Christ Mass" there, and Christians and non-Christians alike celebrate it together, without worrying about whether a non-Christian is offending himself. Not too shabby! Welcome to our rapidly expanding family of man with black hat readers.

Oh boy.
“When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people.”

Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), while today considered the philosophical father of modern conservatism, was admired by both liberals and conservatives throughout the nineteenth century.

Christ-Mass: Day 2 (Boxing Day)

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves ...”

It wasn't available last year, but it is now, the video of the á cappella group Straight No Chaser singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" -- well, after a fashion. As this is published, yours truly is out running errands somewhere. I know what you're thinking: “Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, you’re being a lackey for the over-commercialization of Christmas by joining the maddening crowds for day-after-Christmas specials.” Hah! Foolish minions! I always do this on a Saturday. I'll only appear to be a lackey.

Today is "Boxing Day" in Canada, the UK, and other nations of the Commonwealth. On Christmas itself, the master of the house would give presents to his family. On the following day, he would arrange for leftovers from his great feast to be given to his domestic staff in boxes that they could take home. Eventually, it became customary to box other gifts as well. In any case, they get another day off. So, here's a shout to our friendly neighbors to the north, with a very helpful explanation of the feast, courtesy of a Canadian garage band (well, it kinda looks like they're in a garage, or maybe their parents' basement, whatever...) known as the "Holiday Hipsters," singing "Carol of the Boxing Day."

Meanwhile, the Irish celebrate this as a national holiday, too, only as Saint Stephen's Day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christ-Mass: Day 1 (Nativity)

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of that first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6. By tomorrow, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but at Chez Alexandre, and here at mwbh, the Christmas season is just beginning.

Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who do not...

Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments

Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.

Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.

Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.

True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.

[NOTA BENE: The use of this song was a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some conjecture, as pointed out in this article from]

Now then...

Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the aforementioned items have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments with PNC Wealth Management, discusses this year's CPI, including a brief history, the impact of the economy on this years results and how the PNC CPI can be used in the classroom. Visit for more information.

The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2009 Christmas Price Index is $21,465.56. Find out more in the accompanying video clip.

Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine!

Gaudete, gaudete!
Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, Gaudete!

    Rejoice, rejoice!
    Christ is born
    Of the Virgin Mary, Rejoice!

Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.

    The time of grace has come
    That we have desired;
    Let us devoutly return
    Joyful verses.

Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.

    The closed gate of Ezechiel
    Has been passed through;
    Whence the light is born,
    Salvation is found.

Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.

    God has become man,
    And nature marvels;
    The world has been renewed
    By Christ who is King.

Ergo nostra cantio,
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.

    Therefore let our song
    Now be sung in brightness
    Let it give praise to the Lord:
    Greeting to our King.

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“Gaudete” (pronounced gow-DAE-tae, "rejoice" in Latin) is a sacred Christmas carol, composed sometime in the 16th century. The song was published in the Piae Cantiones, a collection of Finnish/Swedish sacred songs published in 1582. No music is given for the verses, but the standard tune comes from older liturgical books.

The text, in Latin, is a typical song of praise, probably stemming from the Middle Ages. It follows the standard pattern for the time - a uniform series of four-line stanzas, each preceded by a two-line refrain (in the early English carol this was known as the "burden"). Carols could be on any subject, but typically they were about the Virgin Mary or the Saints of Christmas.

The Electric folk group Steeleye Span had a hit in 1973 (Number 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law in Cambridge, and brought it to the attention of the rest of the band.

This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin. (from Wikipedia)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Novena for Christ-Mass: The Vigil

I went to the office today at the usual time, rather than take the whole day off -- not because I had much to do there, so much as someone had to be there to open the place up. I left work around noon. This afternoon, I finished wrapping gifts, and did most of the tree decorating, putting on the last row of lights. We may hang a garland or two in the morning.

As evening falls, there is a stillness in the air, as if the whole world is waiting with bated breath for its Deliverer to come upon them. Either that or the traffic dies down when the stores close early. Whatever.

Later this evening, after all is decorated and all is wrapped, I am heading to the church to make preparations, to greet the King.

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay
    on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary
    were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

G K Chesterton (1874–1936)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Minute Theatre: Christmas Parade

For the last “One Minute Theatre” of the year, we feature the Christmas Parade in Lexington, Kentucky, this past Novemeber 27. For an event taking place in a city, this one certainly has a small-town feel. “Watch for one beauty bug, two beauty queens, a grinch, his winch, and a big fat jolly elf stuck in the chimney n a red suit ho, ho, ho-ing -- and it ain’t helping him get out either.”

Also worth waiting for is this year’s Miss Pre-Teen Kentucky, Delaney Smith, appearing at midpoint in the clip. Yeah, that one is sure to break a lot of boys’ hearts under the mistletoe.

[UPDATE: The video imaged above has been removed, after we discovered that an advertisement was tagged on the end, for a book espousing anti-Catholic conspiracy theories. Further, WSKY-TV is located in Manteo, North Carolina, and not Lexington, Kentucky, as presented. We deeply regret the error. A member of our Research Department has been selected at random, to receive a lump of coal for Christmas.]

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Emmanuel

“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

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(Won't be long now ...)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Unwritten Code

Last Sunday, everyone in my townhouse village was digging out from under nearly two feet of snow. This included their cars.

Of course, two hours of breaking your back like that, is enough to make a man want to preserve the fruit of his labor. The result was, as each space was cleared and a car left its space, it was replaced by a stool, a lounge chair, or whatever could be found to send the necessary message. Imagine a guy pulling into a recently vacated Space A. Then the guy who cleared Space A will be compelled to appropriate Space B. The family who once had Space B will steal Space C. Before long, there will be total mayhem, as the entire social order of the neighborhood will have broken down.

Or a snowball fight. Things could get ugly. (See previous entry.)

I decided not to be caught offguard, so I converted a collapsible wheeled cart for my purposes. “I spent two hours clearing snow from this space. Take it, and I'll put it back, player!” (Go ahead, click on it. You know you want to.) Tonight we have to go out to Fairfax County to give some things to Sal's brother before he departs for the auld sod.

In the meantime, I trust I have made my point abundantly clear, and if some yuppie dipstick takes my space, he or she will get to read all about it right here.

Ain't I a stinker?

Haiku for the Holidays

Must have missed the part
Where the smart-ass kid gets shot.
Red blood on white snow.

I know one must have.
If not, what’s the big deal here?
No blood, no foul, man ...

-- Haiku Guy

Well, I'm back at the office, and I suspect things are going to be quiet around here for the rest of the week. Can't spend a lot of time here right now, but this was an incident that happened over the weekend in DC, where a bunch of spoiled brats living off their parents' trust funds had a run-in with one of DC's Finest. Oh, we were just having a snowball fight, officer. We weren't really trying to hit your Hummer so you'd run off the road.

The policeman, a plainclothes officer who pulled out a gun instead of a badge before cooler heads in uniform arrived, wasn't much smarter.

(H/T to Allahpundit of Hot Air and especially "Haiku Guy".)

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Rex Gentium

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Alone

I'm home today. Here's why.

Today, OPM Director Berry announced that on Monday, December 21, 2009 federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area will be closed. Nonemergency employees (including employees on pre-approved leave) will be granted excused absence ...

The local jurisdictions have yet to clear the secondary streets of snow, and want to keep people off the roads. Personally, I could just take the bus like I always do, and no one would be the wiser. But that's not why I'm writing this. It's because I know what people outside the Beltway are going to say: "Hey, so they shut down the government. Nobody around here knows the difference."

And there's a reason.

Let's say the budget hasn't been passed, and they run out of excuses continuing resolutions, and Federal offices are forced to close. The truth is, about forty percent of the government stays open. That's the part that delivers the mail, processes taxation, oversees air traffic so you and yours can get wherever it is you and yours are going this week, and allegedly defends our borders. Believe me, if your Aunt Minnie doesn't get her Social Security check on the first of the month, you'll know the difference really fast.

On the other hand, her application for a new passport is going to have to wait.

Personally, I'd just as soon be at work today. There were two projects I wanted to complete before Christmas, and I'll have barely enough time for them now. It's times like this that it almost feels like a real job.

Don't you hate when that happens?

The Reason for the Season: Welcome Yule!

[The following is a reprint from the previous year, updated to coincide with the series in which it is incorporated. -- DLA]

We are inspired by today's winter solstice to bring you this special edition of the aforementioned series. Meanwhile, you and the rest of the homeschool cooperative have to come up with a presentation for Twelfth Night, and you've been too busy wrapping presents for First Night? Need any ideas, well, WE GOT 'EM!!! You betcha!

Conventional wisdom would have it, that the date for Christmas was based upon the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia, the Feast of the Unconquered Sun, as the 25th of December was the date of the winter solstice (first day of winter) in the old Julian Calendar. We are further led to believe that the early Christians co-opted this celebration for their own, to commemorate the birth of their own Unconquered Son. Recent scholarship tells us that it was actually the other way around, that Saturnalia was inaugurated in response to the growing popularity of Christmas.

(Jordanes provides clarification: "You're conflating Saturnalia... with Natalis Solis Invictus...")

Whatever the history, it is safe to say which one came out on top.

The occasion of "Christ-Mass" is long associated with the ending of darkness and the coming of light, which manifests itself in nature with the lengthening of days and shortening of nights (if only above the equator). It is in this manner that ancient folk tales and folk rituals were sanctified by the heralding of the Gospel. The theme of dying and rising to new life was prevalent in the "mummer's play," an ancient performance custom from the British Isles, that over the centuries made its way through much of the English-speaking world.

In this video, we have the Ditchling Mummers (pictured above in a 2000 photo) performing in their 22nd year at the Bull Inn, Ditchling, on Boxing Day of 2007. The play was from the Sussex village of Sompting and raised money for St Patrick's Night Shelter in Brighton. (For all you Chesterton and Belloc fans out there, Ditchling was once a center of the Distributist movement.) The characters are, in order of appearance, Father Christmas (James Barry), the Noble Captain (John Bacon), the Bold Slasher (Barry Phillips), Saint George (Julian Burton), the Turkish Knight (Roger Vail), the Doctor (Jeremy Wakeham), and Little Johnny Jack (Mick O'Shea). If you've ever wanted to really spice up a Christmas pageant, this little number can be quite entertaining.

"The name of the hero is most commonly Saint George, King George, or Prince George. His principal opponents are the Turkish Knight (in southern England and Turkish Champion in Ireland), or a valiant soldier named Slasher (elsewhere). Other characters include: Old Father Christmas (who introduces some plays), Beelzebub, Little Devil Doubt (who demands money from the audience), Robin Hood (an alternative hero in the Cotswolds), Galoshin (a hero in Scotland), et cetera. Despite the frequent presence of Saint George, the Dragon rarely appears in these plays, though it is often mentioned..." (from Wikipedia) In some versions of the story, the Dragon survives, only to be cut down by a group of sword dancers, who surround him with their swords and eventually choke him by his neck. (Nice scene for the kiddies, huh?) Well, we don't have that to present here, but it looks something like this recent sword dance performance of a group from the Washington Revels, featured here in the second video.

Just imagine the Dragon in the middle. You get the idea.

If you and your fellow thespians would like to put on such a performance of St George and the Dragon yourselves, the Comberbach Swilltub Mummers (near Northwich, in Cheshire) have a script available for download, as well as photographs of their own production. The script is similar to that which is used in productions of "The Christmas Revels" which were featured earlier this month.

It's not too late for Twelfth Night, so let's ...

... rise up, Jock, and sing your song
For the summer is short and the winter long.
Let's all join hands and form a chain
Til the leaves of springtime bloom again...


Novena for Christ-Mass: O Oriens

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Magnificat and the Morning After

The neighborhood was out in force today, and the headlines explained why. (Go ahead and click on it. You know you want to.)

It was up to my knees, as I joined the huddled masses yearning to dig out from under nearly two feet of snow. First a guy next door loaned me a garden shovel. Then "Brian" came along and loaned me a snow shovel. Once I was done with mine, I used it to help "Megan" get started with her car, leaving it to her to finish, and to return the shovel to our neighbor. Everybody was out in the street, everybody was helping everybody. How could I ever move from here?

Inside the house, there was the smell of cassava cake baking, thanks to the oriental market down the street being open today. Cassava is a type of yucca plant that grows in South America, which later found its way to the Philippines, and which is the main ingredient in one of their most favored pastries.

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Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
    My soul glorifies the Lord,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
    my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
    He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
    henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est,
    The Almighty works marvels for me.
et sanctum nomen eius,
    Holy is his name!
et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies
    His mercy is from age to age,
timentibus eum.
    on those who fear him.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
    He puts forth his arm in strength
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;
    and scatters the proud-hearted.
deposuit potentes de sede
    He casts the mighty from their thrones
et exaltavit humiles;
     and raises the lowly.
esurientes implevit bonis
    He fills the starving with good things,
et divites dimisit inanes.
    and sends the rich away empty.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
    He protects Israel, his servant,
recordatus misericordiae,
    remembering his mercy,
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
    the mercy promised to our fathers,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula.
    to Abraham and his sons for ever.

Somewhere this evening, in cathedrals and monasteries around the world, they are singing the "Magnificat" -- the canticle for vespers which recalls the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The gospel for today recounts the story, as if to make way for the newborn King. This clip is from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It won't be long now ...

Hey, that reminds me; I've still got presents to wrap!

The Reason for the Season: Rorate Caeli

Today's introit for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also a popular hymn for the entire season, and is especially used as an antiphon during Vespers. It is also known as "The Advent Prose" or by its first words in English: "Drop down ye heavens from above."

If you are snowed in like we are here at Chez Alexandre, consider joining in the singing of this hymn as you contemplate the readings for the Mass of the Day.

While some of us are digging our cars out from under more than a foot of snow, you can find the mp3 audio file, and the score for Gregorian chant, by clicking here.

Or you can join in with our special guests for today, brought to you by

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity:
    Ne irascáris Dómine, ne ultra memíneris iniquitátis:
behold the city of thy sanctuary is become a desert,
    ecce cívitas Sáncti fácta est desérta:
Sion is made a desert.
    Síon desérta fácta est:
Jerusalem is desolate,
    Jerúsalem desoláta est:
the house of our holiness and of thy glory,
    dómus sanctificatiónis túæ et glóriæ túæ,
where our fathers praised thee.
    ubi laudavérunt te pátres nóstri.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

We have sinned, and we are become as one unclean,
and we have all fallen as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind,
have taken us away
thou hast hid thy face from us,
and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

See, O Lord, the affliction of thy people,
and send him whom thou hast promised to send.
Send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from the rock of the desert
to the mount of the daughter of Sion,
that he himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

Be comforted, be comforted, my people;
thy salvation shall speedily come
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why bath sorrow seized thee?
I will save thee; fear not: for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Clavis David

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

Isaiah had prophesied, “I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another Saturday night, and I ain’t got ...

I think it finally stopped snowing. They've reported 20.5 inches for Arlington, the highest for the month of December since 1932 [NOTE: Another report places the old record in 1964. Whatever ...].

I've spent most of today writing, shoveling snow, and moving the parol to the front door while moving the wiring around to accommodate it. And now I'm sitting here, drinking a nice hot apple cider with a shot of Irish whiskey, while Sal is watching some "chick movie" -- in this case, "Enchanted" starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. They're doing the big musical scene now. It's in Central Park, naturally.

I feel so ... domesticated.

Paul is working at Wonderland tonight -- he's there when he's not at the Looking Glass Lounge -- and he says it's really crowded there. This is a shot he took of what appears to be Georgia Avenue in uptown DC. I wonder what it is that makes some people see a night like this as an excuse to go out on the town. Maybe they're more carefree than I am. Or maybe, as Paul says: "People will go to great lengths to get drunk, especially when it's cold outside."

But I think it's something else.

The idea of being confined is so ... confining. When I was a boy, and I was feeling down, I'd get on my bike and run all over Milford until I felt better. I never lost that urge to take to the road. Maybe my next car should have four-wheel drive. Maybe a Subaru Outback, an SUV that's not so overbearing. After all, it's not like I expect to be seen in a Hummer, right?

Maybe next winter.

Who’s dreaming of a white Christmas NOW?

It's reasonable to say that "Sal" had no experience with snow until she left the Philippines. So when we got a foot of it overnight on the East Coast, it was little more than a unique opportunity to get some mileage out of her Facebook page. (She won't let me be her Facebook friend. Who can explain a woman anyway?) Of her three daughters, two of them have been professional models, a talent they undoubtedly learned from their mother.

Now, I ask you; does this look like someone who has a care in the world, like how they're going to dig a car out from under this, as opposed to sweet-talking a certain sap of a gentleman into the task?

Nah, didn't think so.

That's only the least of reasons why I should have been better prepared for this -- you know, digging out the stuff from underneath other stuff that you just know you're gonna need when there's a blizzard. Things like the window scraper for the car, and the snow shovel for underneath the wheels, not to mention the sidewalk. I have them somewhere, underneath stuff I don't particularly need as much as ... well, the stuff that's underneath.

Not only that, but I really believe I could take on these roads today, except for two things: the ability to pull my car out of its parking space, and the ability to have it reserved for me when I get back. Then again, I just got this notice from the County:

Conditions are deteriorating rapidly. Visibility is extremely poor. MetroRail going to underground operations only starting at 1:00 PM. MetroBus and MetroAccess service is being stopped. USE CAUTION: Pedestrians walking in the middle of streets cannot be seen by drivers ... Roads are treacherous; conditions are worsening. Arlington County and School facilities are closed on Saturday and Sunday. All ART, Metro Bus and above ground Metro rail service suspended at 1:00 pm today until further notice.

And speaking of which, take a good look at the parol in the photo, because the next time you see it here at Chez Alexandre will be on the front door. I woke up this morning to find it swaying in the "10 to 20 mph winds with gusts of up to 30 mph" about which I was warned the night before.

I was hoping to take some packages to the post office today, but that was out of the question. It's a good thing I'm dealing with people who believe Christmas lasts for twelve days. And with that, we come to another advantage of not getting the holiday over with: Contingencies. People spend over a month getting themselves all worked up (you know, like someone in your house is probably doing right now) over making one day out of the year absolutely perfect. Leave it to weather like this, to convince the rest of you that I was right all along.

When I lived in Georgetown in the early 1990s, I was six blocks from the parish where I worked as a sacristan. On a weekend like the one we're having now, I also filled in as acolyte and reader for the whole morning. Later that day, the traffic at Wisconsin and M came to a halt, as I ran downhill across the street, pulling a sled with a seven-year-old boy in tow. Closer to the present, I spoke to the pastor on the phone. Only a Low Mass at St John's tomorrow, if at all, so I've been relieved for the day. (If you live in the archdioceses of either Baltimore or Washington, you're already off the hook for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.)

So today will be spent wrapping presents, and with the time that's left, looking for that snow shovel. We'll order a pizza, probably watch some "chick movie" like "The Proposal" starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

Until things clear up just a little, maybe there's at least one reason to celebrate. I'm the one on the right.

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Radix Jesse

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Calm Before

It's Friday night, and all roads in the Nation's capital lead to the supermarkets, where the lines are as long as ever. And it's easy to figure out why ...

Tonight: Snow showers will give way to a steady, heavier snow overnight. Low 29F. Winds NE at 15 to 25 mph. Snow accumulating 5 to 8 inches.

Tomorrow: Snow will be heavy at times along with gusty winds. Cold. High 32F. Winds N at 20 to 30 mph. 8 to 12 inches of snow expected.

Tomorrow night: Snow along with gusty winds at times. Low 28F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. 2 to 4 inches of snow expected.

... which is why they're all stocking up on white bread and toilet paper.

Sal told me tonight that I didn't have any food in my place. Well, other than a freezer stuffed to the gills, enough homemade chicken soup to get through the weekend, and ten pounds of rice, she may be right. Little does she know, that nothing stops Chinese take-out from making its appointed rounds.

Everybody panics around here when there's so much as an inch of snow coming. And they drive like idiots on the roads. We've got people from all over the world here, including a bunch of cake-eaters from diplomatic missions, for countries where most people have never seen snow, much less learned how to ever drive in it. You say you're at a red light and nobody's coming the other way? No problem, just drive on through! And these are the lunatics who get immunity if there's an accident.

I never know why the electricity goes out as often as it does, especially over on the Maryland side. Montgomery County could be without lights for three or four days before they figure out, hey, this ain't business as usual here. As for Virginia, they must hold the power grid together with bailing wire, that's all I can imagine. But I've got a car with anti-lock brakes and skid control, the safest car I've ever owned. I've got places to go this weekend; not too many, but enough to have to be careful. All you do is allow more time than usual, drive slower than usual, allow more room than to stop than usual, and consider every move more carefully than usual.

That, and assume everybody else on the road is crazy as hell. You'll usually be right.

And I'll be alright as long as my high-speed internet is working.
I know what you must be thinking: “Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, where’s a flash mob dance for Christmas?” Well, we stumbled on a good one from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, just three weeks ago. It was choreographed by Marc Wayne of “The Culture House,” Presented by Generation Relevant, filmed by Bret Bourquin, Jereme Wilson, Marc Wayne and Corey Jackson, and produced and edited by Bret Bourquin with Ohcreates.

What better way to herald the season with our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy?

If i were a rich man ...

[VIDEO: Chaim Topol as Tevye, in the 1971 motion picture Fiddler on the Roof, which won three Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor.]

Lately we have read in the news, about certain people who have been caught in their indiscretions. At some point, they may have believed that their fortune was a license for their behavior. It is certain that others were attracted to them by that fortune. There have also been stories of people reaping millions of dollars from a state lottery, only to squander it away and subsequently ruin their lives.

But oh, no, not me, mes amis. I would be one to show the world that this need not happen.

I know this for a fact. One of my cousins was a professional baseball player. And while he was never among the real high-profile talent, his contract did run into the millions before he retired. He now lives in a very fine (and from what I'm told, very big) house, and he makes his living as a contractor, building backyard decks. No, he doesn't just own a company that builds decks; HE builds decks.

This essay is to demonstrate, through the depiction of four scenarios, what would happen to me were I to be so fortunate, be it winning the lottery, writing the next great American novel, or just having it fall into my lap. It includes certain prudent measures, not the least of which would be to have a long and serious conversation with that cousin of mine; you know, what's okay, what's not okay. After about thirty percent going to taxes, and ten percent being tithed to the Church (it's the least I could do), I am assuming that I would be left with sixty percent. Other than that ...

If I won $100,000 ...

... I would settle all debts except for the house, including any funds borrowed off my inheritance. I would establish an automatic fund to contribute to the care of my parents, as well as make up for any deficiencies in my retirement portfolio. I would also trade in my current car and put a big down payment on a new one. The rest would go to the renovation of my townhouse, and getting ahead on my mortgage. The upshot is, that my life would change little, but would improve.

If I won $1,000,000 ...

... I would do all the above, except that I would keep the townhouse as an investment, and put down a huge payment on a larger one. It would have to be one of the dozen or so three-bedroom units in my neighborhood, because I love my neighborhood that much. I would get two cars instead of one; a larger one, fully loaded, for long trips, and a Smart fortwo or similar vehicle for local driving. I would also establish a fund for the care of my parents, where they would draw from the interest. My life would change, but not go crazy.

If I won $10,000,000 ...

... I would do all the above, except that I would find an estate in the middle of town with a large carriage house and a servant's cottage, to create a neighborhood within a neighborhood, cordoned off by a combination of fencing and clever landscaping. My future wife and I (it could happen) would live in the main house, with a separate entrance for at least two boarders, most likely expatriates from the Philippines who work in the home health care industry. There would be a quarter-acre garden for flowers and produce, and a shed for chickens, all under the care of a semi-retired couple living in the carriage house above the three- or four-car garage. The guest cottage would be for a retired priest, who would say private (Traditional Latin) Mass in the chapel to be built on the property.

[IMAGE: Artists rendering of Hundredfold Farm, a cohousing project near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Used without permission or shame.]

If I won $100,000,000 ...

... I would do all the above, and quit my day job. Instead of tithing to the Church, I would set up an endowment with the amount in question, to disperse the interest off the principle, accepting only membership in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (because there's something about being "sovereign" ...). In addition, instead of buying an estate, I would buy property, either in the Blue Ridge, western Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, or southern Ohio, and build a village. It would follow the “cohousing” model, and would hold between twenty-four and thirty-six residences, or up to about three hundred people. Solicitations would be sent out to Catholic homeschooling families, for whom would be secured low-interest loans to begin their new lives. We would establish a corporation to oversee the planning, design, and construction, and later govern it as a homeowners association (only we'd call it a "board of selectmen" presided over by a "mayor" and "vice-mayor"). There would be a common house to function as a "village hall", a chapel, a cooperative-owned workshop managed by a guild, a cooperative-owned general store, something resembling a post office, and an adjoining working farm with a produce stand.

In the second, third, and fourth scenario, I would hire an accountant to manage the fortune.

In the third and fourth scenario, I would hire an accountant to manage the fortune, and a lawyer to protect it from the riff-raff.

In the fourth scenario, I would be designated the village idiot, as “all day long I'd biddy biddy bum.”