Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Next One Hundred: This Just In...

Comments at Hot Air:

Asher: Apparently [Dennis Miller] said we’re living in an odd time when Miss California gets tougher questions than the President.

Upstater85: Well, what should we expect when our Precedent is Miss Chicago?

Stickeehands: “Mr. President... Given the rapid increase in the size of the federal budget, the ballooning of the deficit, and your decision to reveal our interrogation playbook to the enemy, what is your favorite color?”


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The First One Hundred... Take Your Pick!

Our Research Department here at man with black hat was compiling a list of the accomplishments of the current Presidential administration for its first one hundred days. While the incumbents themselves historically tend to play it down (present company excepted), the first one hundred days of an American presidency are considered a first-sign indicator of that particular administration in the long run. This dates to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in 1933, when FDR promised some very drastic initiatives.

We live with many of them to this day. The most significant among them: deficit spending.

However, our crackerjack team got two-thirds of the way through the list, when they all simultaneously threw up their hands and surrendered to the inevitable, that they couldn't possibly top that which was compiled by The New York Post. We'll give you the first five, and let you take it from there:

1. "Obama criticized pork barrel spending in the form of 'earmarks,' urging changes in the way that Congress adopts the spending proposals. Then he signed a spending bill that contains nearly 9,000 of them, some that members of his own staff shoved in last year when they were still members of Congress. 'Let there be no doubt, this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business, and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability,' Obama said." -- McClatchy, 3/11

2. "There is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments." -- Obama during the campaign.

3. This year's budget deficit: $1.5 trillion.

4. Asks his Cabinet to cut costs in their departments by $100 million -- a whopping .0027%!

5. "The White House says the president is unaware of the tea parties." -- ABC News, 4/15

Brace yourselves, only ninety-five more to go.

But enough of this fiddle-de-dee. How about a list of real significance, like the first one hundred fashion statements of the First Lady? Now THIS will have the whole town talking. Check it out...

Michelle wore a slim pantsuit from Zero + Maria Cornejo (and a large plastic brooch) when she spoke to female leaders at the Diplomatic Room of the White House on March 19.

Come on, girls, admit it. This is what you were really after!

One Minute Theatre: Doyle Dykes

Today’s edition of One Minute Theatre is dedicated to yet another one of those city-slicker pickers with a lot of slicker licks than me. In this case, I’m talking about Doyle Dykes, a man whose influences span from Chet “Mister Guitar” Atkins, to Duane “Twang Thang” Eddy. Here is a rendition of The 12th Street Rag, with a little Woody Woodpecker thrown in for good measure. We've shown some guitar workshops before. Now you know what the next one will cover.

Hang on to your hats. This dude crams a lot of “a little fingerpickin’ there for ya” into sixty seconds.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On this date in 1521...

...Filipino natives led by chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and over forty Spanish soldiers at the Battle of Mactan. Lapu-Lapu is a national hero in the Philippines, where he is known as "King Kalipulako de Maktan." If Sal were here, she would want you to know this.

Forty-four years later, to the day, Conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and 500 armed soldiers arrived at Cebu and established the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. Eventually, in 1898 (or thereabouts), the Americans took over from the Spanish, the result of the boot-in-the-arse we gave them in the Spanish-American War. We treated the Filipinos better, which is not saying much. And yet, during World War II, thousands of Filipino Scouts fought alongside American forces to liberate their country from the Japanese. Despite serving under American auspices, they were denied veterans' compensation by the USA. The matter has only been rectified by an Act of Congress in recent weeks -- if too little, too late.

One more reason the Filipinos are the best friends the USA ever had. I say, let 'em all come here. It's the least we could do.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ego sum pastor bonus, alleluia!

I am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.

-- From a homily on the gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope.

[IMAGES: 1) Wacław z Szamotuł - Ego Sum Pastor Bonus. Utwór wykonany w ramach konkursu chórów w Szamotułach 17.11.2007. 2) Mausoleum of Galla Placidia at Ravenna, mosaic with an imperial Christ, circa 440.]

Friday, April 24, 2009

“Centraal Station Antwerpen gaat uit zijn dak!” Hey, I don't translate this stuff, I just report it, okay? (Anybody here know Dutch?)

But from what I can gather, the folks of Belgian TV were looking for someone to play Maria in a musical production of “The Sound of Music.” So they found two hundred dancers, had just two rehearsals, and on March 20, at eight in the morning local time, they staged a public awareness event in the middle of Antwerp’s Central Station. Notice just over halfway through the four-minute routine, how it takes a decidedly different turn. You have to admit, they took the T-Mobile stunt we showed you last week to the next level.

It all seems harmless enough, but at least one individual has warned of this musical romance being the slippery slope to perdition. Beat's the hell outa me. Still, some people will do anything to be featured on our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Flying Over

During the 1990s, I would visit Ohio at least three times a year, sometimes four. I'd be out on the town most every night. Imagine, if you will, spending your workday with no one to talk to, except for transacting business or office matters. Imagine then going home to an empty house, with no one to talk to there either. Imagine this, all day, every day, for days, weeks, months at a time. It was like that back then. I thought I had found a remedy. But the people I used to party with all moved on, as people are wont to do. I made the adjustment eventually. So I don't get back as much.

I heard from Rob a few nights ago. He wanted to thank me for remembering him at this weblog in the manner that I did. Of course, he appeared in a dream, so you can take it cum grano salis for all I care. It wasn't a vision of bright light, mind you -- that really wasn't his style, nor is it mine -- but one of fellowship with others. We'd gather at a table of a pub down the street, like I used to do back in Cincinnati. The company of kindred spirits can be found anywhere if you know where to look.

Occasionally they appear in a dream, as if waiting only for you and no one else. Thoughts like this occur to me when I get homesick for no good reason.

One Minute Theatre: Earth Day

For this week’s One Minute Theatre, we are going to honor Earth Day.

Now I know what you’re thinking: hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, are you falling for all that politically-correct global warming climate change crap? Hah!!! What fools you are, my silly little minions, when it should be apparent to you by now, that this weblog has never been an addle-brained mouthpiece for bad science, especially when its author still remembers all the yakkity-yak thirty years ago, about an impending Ice Age.

The above being said, the need to take stock of our wasteful habits is in order. To waste the bounty of the Creator is to fall into the deadly sin of Sloth, while to engage in excess therein commits us to the deadly sin of Gluttony. That we commit ourselves to the avoidance of both, that we “live simply so that others may simply live” is well within the Catholic tradition. This clip was the winner of the 2007 Best One-Minute Green Film Award, by Friends of the Earth. The director was Ulla Jacobsen of Denmark, who described how the “over-packaging of children's toys takes on absurb dimensions...”

For the rest of the world to acquire the standard of living enjoyed in the USA, would require the natural resources of six planets identical to Earth. Our Creator has not seen fit to provide for us in such a manner, which by itself would call for a change of habits, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


If you look over at the right sidebar, you will see a feature that replaces the stained-glass window, between "The Usual Suspects" and "My Front Pages." This is the "news ticker" from, which will be giving up-to-the-minute reports from the prolife front. We can safely say that, in the current political climate, there will be more such developments. With groups like Planned Parenthood getting Federal dollars, despite its clinics breaking laws in several States, "His judgment cometh, and that right soon."

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I want to thank all the people who comment regularly here, with a special welcome to readers of Creative Minority Report and its spinoff, Creative Minority Reader. There is a reason the latter is the only blog I have listed at "The Usual Suspects." This is not to take away from many other fine bloggers whose work I read, but CMR is in a category of its own, for reasons that have been explained here before.

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I don't write this material during office hours, except during lunch, or at the end of the day before I leave. There is also a considerable amount that is prepared several days, even weeks in advance. I say this to avoid the impression that your tax dollars are going into this effort. They are not. The time that is listed at the bottom of each post, is the time of its publication. As I said before, it is often prepared in advance for release at a pre-determined time.

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Some of my work, while of some social import, is not for everyone. Content warnings are based less upon this writer's sensibilities, than those of the target audience. This includes people who wouldn't be caught dead watching Marilyn Manson. Aside from curiosity, I find his whole schtick to be nothing more than that. Alice Cooper was the same way, an ordinary family man, when he wasn't handling giant snakes on stage.

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Some time ago, I had a run-in with a self-identified "Catholic blogger" of considerable notoriety, but who is not at all who they pretend to be. Rather than make a public issue of it, I decided to allow events to run their course, and let this individual be found out for themselves. When it comes down to it, none of us are who we pretend to be, or we would not require the Sacrament of Penance (and yes, I still call it that). Then again, some of us don't seem to mind. By the grace of God, let me never be that way.

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There will be more pieces devoted to music in the months ahead, specifically guitar playing. There are at least two workshops in development already, showing how to play the kind of stuff that was my stock and trade when I was playing more often than I do now. By this time next year, I will probably be playing a lot more often. I wish I had two or three sidemen to play with. In my experience, they tend not to simply fall in your lap, so I'll have to beat the bushes for them.

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There will soon be photos of Holy Week here on this site, as celebrated at St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. I don't write of the experience much, since it puts me in a position to speak for others. But my work at re-introducing the Traditional Mass to northern Virginia has been a high point in my life. I work with a fine group of priests, and an outstanding assembly of young men who serve them.

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Well, that oughta do it for now. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bullies for Columbine

Michael Moore: "If you were to talk directly to kids at Columbine, and the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?"

Marilyn Manson: "I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they had to say, and that's what no one did."

The above is an exchange with Marilyn Manson, from the movie Bowling for Columbine, directed by Michael Moore. On this day, ten years ago, two students shot and killed twelve classmates and one teacher, and injured 24 others, before taking their own lives, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

One and a half years after that incident, an assistant coach of the freshman football team of a high school in Fairfax County (VA), accosted my son Paul in the locker room by grabbing and restraining him, and then breaking wind in his face. This followed several attempts at bullying of this young man of smaller stature by his "manly" teammates. Paul soon left the team. Several months later, following an emotional breakdown, and after a poorly executed -- and in the end, harmless -- threat to take his own life on school property, Paul was expelled. The school effectively found the means to disavow any responsibility for the action of one of its staff, through the actions of one of its students.

What do both incidents have in common? Bullies.

Ah, you don't believe me, do you? You'd rather blame video games and heavy metal music and violence on television. You'd rather believe the empty suit on NBC News, who claimed that bullying was not a factor, because these kids were plotting this for a year. Next they'll be telling you that bullies get bored with picking on the same guys after only a few weeks.

Instead, consider the discussion in the aftermath:

The state wrestling champ was regularly permitted to park his $100,000 Hummer all day in a 15-minute space. A football player was allowed to tease a girl about her breasts in class without fear of retribution by his teacher, also the boy's coach. The sports trophies were showcased in the front hall -- the artwork, down a back corridor.

Columbine High School is a culture where initiation rituals meant upperclass wrestlers twisted the nipples of freshman wrestlers until they turned purple and tennis players sent hard volleys to younger teammates' backsides. Sports pages in the yearbook were in color, a national debating team and other clubs in black and white. The homecoming king was a football player on probation for burglary...

(The Washington Post, "Dissecting Columbine's Cult of the Athlete," Lorraine Adams and Dale Russakoff, 06/12/1999.)

Bullying at Columbine High was rampant, witnesses testified Monday, and victims' parents were shocked that the principal has said there were no danger signs leading to the shooting.

"All I could say for my friend Frank (DeAngelis) was, he must have been worried about his job," said Dawn Anna, the mother of slain student Lauren Townsend and a girls volleyball coach at Columbine. "There are too many people worried about their jobs, and not enough worried about taking care of innocent children."

Anna and about a dozen others made their comments Monday before the Governor's Columbine Review Commission. The families of other Columbine victims and members of the public also spoke.

It was the first time the board has taken public comments...

(Rocky Mountain News, "Witnesses tell of Columbine bullying," Jeff Kass, 10/03/2000)

(You really must read the articles before you dismiss them.)

We have heard more about bullies these days in the news media. The current round of complaints is fueled by weaker children accused of being "gay." GLBT advocates are using this to call attention to the plight of their younger counterparts, but the truth is you don't have to be of a different sexual orientation to be bullied. All you have to be -- is different.

We also continue to hear of how ineffective -- no, make that thoroughly incompetent -- school administrators are at addressing the issue. To give another example, I was recently consulted about another incident, where a young girl of middle school age was taunted by a boy in her class, who took a stick and sneaked up behind her, lifting up her knee-length skirt. Naturally, the girl was humiliated. So far, the school has found it necessary to blame the girl.

You have not heard of this story yet. Before the end of the year, you will. (Did I mention this was a Catholic school?)

And so many stories like this one will persist, because schools do not deal with the problem at its source. They erect a pedestal for the popular and more talented kids -- the head cheerleader, the all-star football player -- the ones who bring fame and glory to their institution. Some time later, these giants of astute learning are dumbfounded when such kids torment others not so distinguished. You take an age group where it is easy to assume you are invincible and immune from consequences for your actions -- having had so little experience with facing consequences without the safety net that is mummy and daddy -- and then reinforce that naivete for your own trivial reasons, or for no reason at all. What the hell do you expect to happen?

Answer: Columbine.

How do we solve it? We listen to our kids. We get a f@#$ing clue when it comes to anything and everything in their lives! Even when they don't want it. As a divorced parent, estranged from my own son, I would still take time off work to introduce myself to his teachers, and get weekly phone calls and e-mails on his progress, or lack thereof. Vigilance as a father does not end in such circumstances; it only gives cause to be more creative. The finest school system in the world can only do so much, to compensate for oblivious parents.

What was the result?

Paul was eventually transferred to another school within the county system, one that placed more value on its students than its public relations. By his senior year, after a desire to make amends with his father, I taught him philosophy in monthly sessions, in addition to what he learned in school. He is now an honor student at the Art Institute of Washington, in addition to supporting himself as a bartender. He has been sober for seven years. And on his Facebook page, among his favorite books is listed the Summa Theologicae.

His tormentors on the football team, effectively shielded by the power of the state and its public school system, walked away from their actions without consequence. I have since learned the identity of both the football coach, as well as the young studs who taunted Paul. And with the coach being such an enormous pantywaist for attacking little boys in a locker room, I could have settled this whole thing easily enough with a good old-fashioned country @$$-whoopin.'

Wherever he is (ahem!), perhaps he would beg to differ.


It is a common "Christogram" based on the first three letters of the name of "Jesus" in Greek -- "IHΣOYΣ," thus rendered in Latin as "IHSOVS." It was later interpreted to mean "Iesus Hominum Salvator" or "Jesus Savior of Mankind." It is also the centerpiece on the seal of the Society of Jesus, an order of priests also known as the "Jesuits," among whom it has come to mean "Iesum Habemus Socium" ("We have Jesus as Companion") or "Iesu Humilis Societas" ("Humble Society of Jesus").

Hold that thought.

At a recent visit to Georgetown University, the White House asked that the backdrop of the location where the President would be speaking, one which featured the "IHS" Christogram, be covered while he was speaking there. The Jesuits -- who in the last forty years could never resist an opportunity to suck up to brokers of secular power -- granted this request, despite its unprecedented nature, and despite having no real obligation to do so.

After all, what was the White House going to do, cancel?

In Catholic tradition, the Holy Name is neither used nor dismissed lightly. In fact, outside of prayer, it is used sparingly. In the traditional Mass (and properly speaking, on all other occasions), at the mention of His Name, one shows the proper respect by a bow of the head. When the passage from St Paul's letter to the Philippians is read for the Epistle, and the reader proclaims that "at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend," he and everyone else standing or sitting is directed to genuflect. When officiating in the sanctuary at the mention of His Name, a seated cleric tips his biretta, and those who serve the cleric bow to the crucifix. (Likewise, when outdoors, men will show respect by momentarily removing their hats.)

Sometimes I meet a sincerely motiviated parish worker who makes reference to the Blessed Sacrament being reserved in the Tabernacle -- and you know who your are, bless your heart -- by saying in passing that "Jesus is in there." Not that this isn't true, but we can't very well spend half our time bowing every time someone means well. That is why we have the proper substitutes, just as any great King has many titles for his many attributes. We don't say "Jesus is in the tabernacle." We say that "the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle." Or we refer to the Sacrament as "the sacred Host" or "the precious Blood," or in both forms collectively as "the sacred Species." (Haven't heard that last one in a while, have you?)

Then again, some of us use it when swearing, which is an affront to the Name, and a confessional matter. The Holy Name Society traces its roots to the Council of Lyons in 1274, as a means of reparation for offenses to His Name. Until recent years, it was the most common form of parish men's club.

We show proper respect, to the office of the President of the United States, by refraining from being on a first-name basis with him. His closest confidants will refer to him, publicly and privately, as "Mister President." It is a similar show of respect to Our Lord, that we revere His Name.

Unless you're either a Jesuit with someone to impress, or a public official who cannot return the respect he commands from others.

Or, in this case, both.

It takes a wingnut...

Apparently there's a new feature at Salon webzine, where a political conservative and former Bush administration official who remains anonymous (probably out of fear that the Department of Homeland Security will label him a threat to national security, or some such nonsense), answers liberal readers' questions about the conservative point of view.

This installment explains why social conservatives have a problem with "gay marriage."

Contrary to what many supporters of gay marriage seem to believe, the opposition to gay marriage is not motivated, as a general rule, in large part or small, by bigotry.... what inspires the first conservative objection to gay marriage, [is] the one born out of respect for society and those social traditions that, over time, have demonstrated that they exist for everyone's benefit....

It gets much better.

What follows is what I've been arguing for years. It's not about you and your little love-muffin. It's about all of us, and the proof in the pudding that holds us all together. The only reason some people are able to confuse "freedom" with "license" with impunity, is because there are enough of the rest of us to insist on maintaining the proper distinction. You have to wonder, though, how long that's going to continue, don't you think?

Or don't you?

[IMAGES: 1) Illustration by Mark Dancey for Salon. 2) Copyright 2009 by Chris Muir for Day by Day. All images used without permission or shame.]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Outside the Box

Our video clip earlier today, of the “flash mob” style dance at Liverpool Street Station, inspired Paul to send us this little-known gem; a UK television advert of the "xbox 360" video game system that was never aired. While its introduction to a post 9-11 environment may have been cause for it being banned, it nonetheless has a certain dark comedic value. Some in our target audience would not classify this as "whimsical," so we're showing it as a postscript.
The Liverpool Street Station has been the scene of arrivals other than those of the London Underground and the National Rail. “[In] April 1997, the British band Mansun used hidden cameras to film band members throwing £25,000 from the upper concourse onto City of London commuters below, for a promo video for their 'Tax Loss' EP. The video was filmed by Roman Coppola and the ensuing chaos as the crowd scrambled for the cash was intended to highlight human greed.”

Fortunately, it has also had its lighter moments. In January of this year, 400 actors, selected from an audition of some ten thousand, took part in a “flash mob” style dance spectacle, as part of the “Life’s For Sharing” advertising campaign for T-Mobile. They rehearsed for eight weeks, including on-site dress and technical rehearsals in the middle of the night. Ten hidden cameras captured the event, which was broadcast on BBC-TV Channel 4 within 24 hours. For less than three minutes, commuters were taken off guard, with some taking part in the festivity before it came to an abrupt conclusion.

As the first clip begins, watch the spot just below center, a guy with dark pants and a white shirt. It spreads out from there. “Well... you know you make me wanna...”

The public reaction was quite remarkable. When a work of performance art lightens the load for just three minutes, it leaves its sphere of influence better than it was found. People who think that public support for the arts is frivolous, fail to appreciate the effect upon those for whom it is not. It sets an example, one that proves to us that our lives, however short-lived they may be, can have their moments of light and magic. This has the potential to make it easier for us, not only to do good, but to be good.

This scheme has been attempted in other cities in the UK. “[In] February 2009, roughly 5000 participated in a Silent Dance.” (As I understand it, they all were steppin’ to their simulcast iPods.)

If you and several hundred of your close personal friends would like to pull off such a stunt in the local shopping mall, you’ve come to the right place. Our highly trained professional dance instructor is here to show you the moves of the eight-part dance party mix.

The first half of our two-clip tutorial consists of: 1) Lulu’s “Shout”, 2) Yazz’s “The Only Way Is Up”, 3) The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don't Cha”, and, for a change of pace, 4) Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz.” The second half provides the moves for: 5) Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down”, 6) Rainbow’s “Since You've Been Gone”, 7) Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop”, and finally, 8) The Contours’ “Do You Love Me?”

Now, if you are serious about pulling this off, it helps to have friends in high places, or in this case, the management office of the aforementioned shopping mall. Have a few key people who are adept at organizing large crowds and teaching standard dance-party moves. But most important, the management will want to know there is something in it for them. You’ll think of something.

And you’ll want to know that there will be more such events portrayed here in the weeks ahead, as part of the usual nonsense that we here at man with black hat like to call our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

After all... “the kids are alright.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Time Revisited

So, this reporter from CNN interviews a guy at a "Tea Party" protest in Chicago, okay? And when she starts giving him a hard time (as opposed to simply, you know, interviewing him), the crowd gets on her case to quit picking on the guy. So what is the YouTube clip called? "CNN Reporter Harassed at Chicago Tea Party." Oh, yeah, that's what happened.

[TOO GOOD TO LET SLIDE: From "CNN's Susan Roesgen went nuts on the air Wednesday at a Chicago tea party, blaming everything... on Fox News. But maybe she was angry because Fox turned her down for a job -- twice!"]

I was actually interviewed once on the sidewalk by one of those news networks. It was near Capitol Hill, I forget what about or when. They asked me my name and where I lived, and I told them. Then they asked me where I work. "An agency of the Federal government." They wanted to know which one. "It doesn't matter. You want my opinion, leave my employer out of it." They appeared to be satisfied with that answer. Maybe they used the footage, maybe not. I wouldn't have cared either way.

"But, dude," you respond, "you've got a blog. How come you do that if you have a problem with being famous?" First of all, dude, do I look like Mother Angelica to you? We're not talking about a lot of fame relative to Catholic media here. Also, I'm in control of the message. It gives me that nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. I think I'll keep it.

Meanwhile, Greg Gutfeld gives a blow-by-blow analysis of yesterday's nationwide Tea Dance. (Hey, if we're gonna call it "teabagging," I'm just sayin'...) This second clip deals with some mature themes, now that we've given tea bags a significance for which they were not intended. But shame on that CNN reporter for trying to be the story, rather than simply cover it. Jamie of has a similar issue with the coverage of DC Mayor Adrian "Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free-Card" Fenty: "If we lose real investigative reporting, then we might as well be living in a propoganda state because there will be no watchdogs. And Fenty's sure acting like there's no watchdog."

I'd like to point out to Jamie that we may be too late.

Finally, if you want to try to humiliate me on camera, call first and I'll put on my best suit and come down to the studio. But if you stick a camera in front of me on the street, you're doing it to a private citizen. If you don't like what I have to say, you know what you can stick somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Minute Theatre: Smarty Pants Dance

For this week’s One Minute Theatre, we are going to try something a little different.

By the time he was eighteen months old, Paul could identify at least eighteen makes of automobile. At the age of twenty-three years and counting, he continues to be a constant source of amusement. Meanwhile, the child in this clip looks to be about fifteen months old, but she can identify states on a map of the USA, more easily than most high school students.

(Is this turning into “dance week” at mwbh? We shall see...)

One Lump, or Two?

Americans began as a revolutionary people. Not in the sense that Communists use the term. The Marxist-Leninist philosophy that appropriated that term didn't want a revolution; they wanted to take over. We were founded on a calculated risk, one that the odds never favored. We didn't want to be taken over; we wanted to be left alone.

We are seeing events unfold, which in the mind of many, foretell the giving up of our essential freedoms. We want someone to take care of us; to feed us, clothe us, shelter us, tuck us into bed at night. To those ends, we have been willing to give up being left alone. Anyone who believes this only began with one political party or administration is kidding themselves. It has been building up over nearly a century. Someone asked Ben Franklin upon his leaving a lawmaking session what he and his cohorts had created: "A republic, if we can keep it." He knew the nature of human weakness, and what history had and would teach us.

Today, in cities all over the nation, on a day when Federal income taxes and statements are due, there will be "tea party" protests. They are organized by the angry, honest citizens who believe they've been taxed enough, and are set to be taxed entirely too much. But a real change begins in their hometowns, in city councils, at voting booths, at state legislatures, and impromptu "town meetings" set up by national Senators and Congressmen. To the degree that being an incumbent is a shoe-in for re-election, we the people share the responsibility for where things are today. It can start with a protest in front of the White House. But if it ends there, the people who spent their day complaining, will have no one but themselves to blame. Remember what this writer quoted last November:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence; from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependency back again into bondage."

Read every word of that quotation. Every. Word. Carefully. Then ask yourselves...

If you want fewer taxes, if you want less interference by a central government, what are you willing to give up? That federal job contract in your hometown that your congressman would secure for his constituents? That new interstate highway that will make it easier for you to get to Wal-Mart? The assurance that your Social Security check will still arrive on time, even when the government "shuts down" without a budget?

Don't say you were never warned.

[UPDATE: Someone finally explained to me the joke being told on the air by the talking heads about "teabagging."(Naturally, it was Greg Gutfeld. Thanks, Greg.) Leave it to me not to get the memo. Leave it to the mainstream media -- and you know who you are, Rachel Maddow -- to resort to sexual innuendo in describing people with whom they disagree. Now watch them whine about anyone questioning their journalistic integrity. Duh!]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Triumph of Beauty

This video clip has been an enormous hit on YouTube, and there is a reason.

Most people are not really bad or evil, just incredibly lukewarm, and easily swayed by the opinion of the crowd. So it was with the audience of a television show in the UK known as "Britain's Got Talent" (similar to our "American Idol"). They laughed when a 47-year-old woman, a rather plain-looking spinster from from West Lothian, Scotland, stood in front of a skeptical crowd -- and that's putting it rather mildly -- and said she wanted to be a professional singer like Elaine Paige.

The panel of judges rolled their eyes in condescension. Then she began to sing, and a once-hostile audience roared its approval. She was their heroine from that moment on. Even a pompous @$$ like Simon Cowell conceded to having misjudged her -- well, not really, but you'll get the idea.

There are two things many of us find when we least expect them; one is beauty, the other truth. But where there is genuine beauty, there is truth, and where it is seen for what it is, those who earnestly seek it will be drawn to it. That was the lesson for British television audiences of late. It is a lesson for the rest of us. That is why this week's Tip of the Black Hat is off to Susan Boyle, the woman whose beauty overcame the beast.

You go, girl!

Jewish Moments Revisited

Yesterday, a reader named "Naive" (don't ask me why) wrote: "You probably remember that Miriam danced after the parting of the Red Sea, and Catholics can too! Dance should not be an 'intermission' like when the marching band comes out before the second half. The one example I could cite here in the States would be the choir clapping or swaying while singing or playing. Catholic Mass in Africa is a better reference point."

Well, dear reader, as my slice of life of yesterday should demonstrate, there are those who attempt to live vicariously through ethnic or other traditions that are not their own. Some keep it in perspective, but if you've ever heard a lily-white-bread suburban parish singing old Negro spirituals, you know it can be a cry for help. Witness this demonstration by Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, himself a devout Catholic, with a lively charismatic number based on an Israeli folk tune. This should get them rockin' the house in Steubenville.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

My Jack Tale

Several years ago, man with black hat actually had a sidekick. Basically it was a guy who commented all the time, and often had something witty to say. I never met him, and rarely so much as corresponded with him.

His name was Jack, and he was from New Jersey. That was about all I knew about him.

I thought Jack was a perfect name for a sidekick, being as how there is an established tradition in Anglo-American folklore for "Jack tales." These are outlandish adventures made up by storytellers of an imaginary character -- well, named Jack. Perhaps the most over-exposed example would be "Jack and the Beanstalk." There are many more where that one came from, except no one really knows where they came from. What they all appear to have in common, is a wandering ne'er-do-well with a penchant for getting into trouble, and just as easily getting out of trouble. The latter is often through the concoction of outlandish schemes, and the ability to distort the truth at the expense of his adversary.

One day Jack -- that is to say, my sidekick named Jack -- disappeared without so much as a how-do-you-do. I wonder whatever happened to him. Wandering the countryside, perhaps, in search of newer and taller tales to tell.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Here Comes The Sun: My Wannabe Jewish Moment

Back home in Cincinnati in the late 70s, I was into contra dancing, a form of country dance from New England where men and women stand in opposing lines. (If you ever did the "Virginia Reel" at summer camp or in grade school, you get the idea.) Some of my friends suggested I try international folk dancing with them on Saturday night. They kept talking it up, so I went. I got hooked on it. Most of it was line dances from Eastern Europe, along with Jewish-Israeli dances done in a circle. When I first came to Washington in 1980, I was out dancing three or four nights a week. You didn't need a partner, just the right attitude. I was in hog heaven.

I was only here a few months in the spring of 1981, when I saw the photo in the Washington Post, of people dancing in a circle in front of the Lincoln Memorial, while greeting the rising sun. It was the Jewish feast of ברכת החמה, aka Birkat HaChamah, "a Jewish blessing service honoring the sun, [which] happens only once every 28 years. It occurs when the sun makes its biannual stop over the equator, the vernal equinox, on the fourth day of the Jewish week -- the same day the Old Testament says God created the sun." In those days, I would have tried anything exotic that wasn't illegal or was within reach. I made a promise to myself to attend the next one when it came around again.

One thing you can say about Jews that you cannot say about Catholics, is that they understand how dance can be a form of religious ritual, as opposed to watching a bunch of skinny girls in tights. Most Christians, including Catholics, who promote "liturgical dance" simply don't get it. Now, I certainly do not endorse dancing in a formal worship setting, at least not in this part of the world. I'm not under the impression that Jews do either. Still, they dance to celebrate their faith, one way or the other.

Unfortunately, I forgot how many years I'd have to wait for the great cosmic event to occur again. Then I saw the article about it last Thursday in the Post. As it stands now, I will have to wait until the year of Our Lord 2037. I will be eighty-two years old.

What could possibly go wrong?

Remember Tripoli!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit. Alleluia!

“It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
    our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise with him,
    and sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.”

It was a glorious Solemn High Mass we celebrated, for this day the Lord had made. The clouds had parted, and there were none to be found in the sky. The dogwood trees were in bloom in the Virginia hunt country, with the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance, as Sal and I made our way to a farm in the midst of this scenery. We spent an afternoon with a family whose sons assist at the altar with me. We inspected the chickens in the pen, enjoyed a lovely dinner, and listened to Chopin and Rachmaninoff on the piano. The sun was drawing the day to a close as we parted, a blessed day amongst the beauty of man's gifts to fellow man, and God's gifts to all men.

I wish there were more days like this. Would I appreciate them nearly as much?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carrie Tomko: A Lamentation

Bitterly she weeps in the night,
    tears run down her cheeks;
    she has none
    to bring her comfort
    among all that love her.
All her friends turned traitor
    and became her enemies.

Carrie Tomko passed away last Monday, following a long battle with cancer.

Carrie was the author of a little-known Catholic blog Still Running Off at the Keyboard. Very much a traditionalist at heart, there was a bit of original thinking to her writings, much of which I found in my inbox. You see, she was better known to some of us in the Catholic blogosphere as a commenter and correspondent. Her wit had an edge to it, her cynicism a ray of hope.

Judah went into the misery
    of exile and endless servitude.
Settled among the nations,
    she found no resting place.
All her persecutors fall upon her
    in her sore straits.

When we first learned of her struggle two years ago, some of us observed a deep melancholy that had pervaded her life, as was manifest in her writings on the state of the Church in our times. This is not uncommon. I was a sophomore in high school when I learned that my father had multiple sclerosis. In the several years that followed, he went from struggling to accept his limitations, to anger and despair, to quiet resignation. It also took its toll on my mother, who over the course of that period, had to face the prospect of a twilight in their years together, one that would be quite different than that for which she had hoped. It is only through grace and perseverance that they have prevailed.

The paths of Zion mourn,
    for none attend her sacred feasts:
All her gates are desolate.
Her priests groan and sigh;
    her virgins are cruelly treated!
How bitter is her fate!

Such grace was consolation for Carrie, as in her last blog entry, she wrote: “I was in the hospital four days and am now at home and going for radiation treatments on my brain every day; a brain that does not function normally yet, making blogging nearly impossible... Thank you for all the prayers. I'm grateful and I pray God's blessings on all who pray for me.”

Her adversaries have become her masters,
    her enemies take their ease.
For the Lord has cruelly punished her
    because of her misdeeds without number.
Her young have gone;
    driven away captive by the enemy!

We must become the good we expect in the world, and in the Church as well. As a communion of souls on our way to Heaven, we occasionally pause to lift up the fallen, and their spirits as well, that they may press on. We would wish the same for ourselves. It is in that spirit that we remember our sister Carrie, as we anticipate our remembrance of the Resurrection.

As she, by the grace of God, awaits her own.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Turn back to the Lord, your God!

[VIDEO: Orlando de Lassus (aka Roland de Lassus, or Roland Delattre) (1532?-1594) was a Franco-Flemish composer of late Renaissance music. Along with Palestrina, he is considered the co-architect of the polyphonic style that grew out of the early musical tradition of the Church. He was the most famous and influential musician in Europe at the end of the 16th century.]

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday: Why?

“It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
    they crucified our Savior
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
    and sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.”

Music by Nicole Nordeman and U2, with excerpts from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Certain scenes may be too intense for some viewers. The original wasn’t too pretty a sight either.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Holy Thursday: Out Beyond Ideas

“It was on a maundy Thursday,
    and all in the morning,
    they planted a crown of thorns
    on our heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
    and sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.”

Today’s meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit. Produced by Bob Carlton.

Also featured today is a piece from last year entitled Clean Livin’ and Fancy Footwork.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Father Angelo: Spy Wednesday

“It was on a holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning,
    that Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
    and sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.”

The western tradition of the Church recognizes today as the end of the great fast, followed by the start of the sacred Triduum. Father Angelo Geiger, of the Marian Friary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shares his thoughts on the meaning of this day, as we prepare once again, to traverse the Via Dolorosa in our hearts.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Summer Hours

...a film premiering later in the year, is a European take on the downfall of a family homestead. Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a successful designer in New York City. Frédéric (Charles Berling) is an economics professor in Paris. Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) is a prosperous businessman in China. The three of them come together with the unexpected death of their mother, who is heiress to a grand country estate with its valuable art collection. They look back with fondness, upon memories of a childhood that gave them a sense of rootedness, albeit one long taken for granted. With this coming together, they must now come to grips with the farewell to that childhood, their differences with one another, and the inevitability of change.

The season we commemorate this week -- the cross, the tomb, the rising again -- are reminders of the passages that confront all of us, as we look to the inevitable, to a part of us dying, that we may one day rise again.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Holy Week

The culmination of the Year of Grace in the Church begins this week, as believers remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Here at mwbh, we depart from some of the usual nonsense -- not all of it, mind you; just enough to keep us in line -- to join in that remembrance. In this clip, we look to the East, as Archbishop Vladiko Lazar speaks to us of how Eastern Christians celebrate what they know as "Great Week."

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, when we commemorated the entry of Christ into Jerusalem. There were photographs taken at the Blessing of Palms, Procession, and Solemn High Mass, at St John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. We hope to have them soon. Very soon. (Somebody'd better get crackin'...)

Friday, April 03, 2009

“You only need two tools in life – WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn’t move and does, use the duct tape.” So a wise man told me recently. Someone almost as wise was quick to remind him, that he neglected to mention vise grips. So with these three items, a man has all he really needs in his toolbox. And as Clint Eastwood reminds us in the movie Gran Torino: “Any man worth his salt can do half his household chores with just those three things. Anything else you need, you just borrow.” We will leave you with that for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rob and Me

There was a house on the hill amidst the town where I grew up. It was truly a grand place of residence, with an equally grand view of its surroundings. The family who lived there had four boys and a girl. The oldest boy was Rob.

Rob and I went to grade school and high school together, and we both ran with the same pack for a few years. We had a shack in the woods near his house for a headquarters. We rode bikes around town, threw water balloons at passing cars then ran like hell -- you know, just kids having fun. He was my classmate, my chum, a pal-o'-mine.

Rob's father was Rob Senior, which made him Rob Junior. Rob's father was an architect. In those days, every kid I knew whose father was an architect lived in a really nice big house. After I gave up on being either a priest or an astronaut, an architect was my vocation of choice. I could be creative, I could build stuff, and I could live quite well for myself, thank you very much.

But life always has other plans. Our friendships have lives of their own too, especially during adolescence. After we graduated from the parish school, some of us went on to the Catholic high school in an upscale neighborhood east of Cincinnati. Using the strict and unwritten code accepted in high schools across America, only a few of the small-town kids were accepted by “the in crowd.” Rob was one of them.

It would be fair to describe Rob as what my father would have called “spirited.” He had a certain gift for pulling stunts and then shrugging them off. It was a gift that served him well in the years to follow, one that he described to me years later, during our thirty-year reunion. It seems he wanted to be an architect like his father, but for reasons I don't remember him telling, was unable to enroll. So he just showed up, every day, for the first-year architecture classes at the University of Cincinnati. It was nearly the end of academic year before anyone caught onto him. That kind of chutzpah cannot be taught; it is bred in the bone. Eventually Rob would graduate from UC with a degree in history. He went on to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for a masters degree in architecture. In time, he joined his father's firm, and it became “Steinkamp, Steinkamp and Hampton.” As specialists in traditional-style architecture, Rob designed many of the prominent government buildings in our county.

My life had other plans as well. As a junior in high school, my father managed to convince me, that an aptitude with building materials was not my strong suit, and that I might consider a career in graphic design instead. To this day, I have at least two library shelves with books on architecture and planning, most of which I have read. That is as far as it went, what I like to call “my inner architect.” Whatever stopped me, could never have stopped Rob.

The last time I saw Rob was at the reunion six years ago. It was one of those occasions you remember forever. At a party after the “official” reunion, there was a moment where he turned to me and said: “Dave, I love you, man.” Maybe it was the beer talking, but you know, I believe he actually meant it. I thought of that moment this morning when my brother gave me a call. Rob passed away from a sudden accident at his home. He was only fifty-three years old.

Were it not for everything happening of late, I'd probably be on the road this Friday, heading five hundred miles to a funeral the following day. Many of the kids from my old grade school are still in touch. I want to be there for them. I want to be there for his siblings, and his parents. There's something that's not right about this. We shouldn't have to bury our children; our children should have to bury us. When that rule is broken, it is for reasons that confound us, but are known only to our Maker. But as this is written, I am there with them in spirit. And I remember Rob, in the hope that any human frailty of his be forgiven, and that he be granted eternal rest with the saints of God.

Somewhere in the continuum that is time and space, a group of boys are on their bikes, riding into the sunset. The day is getting late, and they had best be home soon.

[IMAGES: (1) Photo courtesy of Craver-Riggs Funeral Home, Milford, Ohio. (2) Artist rendering of re-creation, historic Garfield Building, 101 Main Street, Milford, Ohio. From Steinkamp, Steinkamp and Hampton Architects.]

FLASH: Manned Flight To Mars Begins!

Well... not exactly.

Who’s Foolin’ Who?

If you want to know the origin of "April Fools Day," you should check The Old Farmer's Almanac. But everyone else is writing about it anyway, and I already have too, so let's make history in the Catholic blogosphere and try something original.

Somewhere I read that some atheists were complaining that they didn't have their own holiday, and they were making a court case out of it somewhere. I don't have the article handy, but it does make me wonder. First, maybe that's why they spent last Christmas ruining our holiday for us. Second, if they need a holiday, maybe they should all get together and make one up, instead of being a bunch of weenies and ruining ours. And third, maybe they already have one.

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 13(14):1-3)

Well, there it is. Enjoy the day, you godless weenies.