Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From Russia With Love. Or Something.

Mother's son,
    freedom's overdue
Lonely man,
    he thinks of you
He isn't done,
    only lives for you
Mother Russia,
    can't you hear him too?

Our attention has been drawn lately to the discovery of a Russian spy network here in the States. Of particular interest is one would-be New Yorker identified as 28-year-old Anna Chapman (AP photo at right) who appeared at a hearing last Monday with ten others, on charges of "conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the United States Attorney General." (This is not to be confused with "espionage." Don't ask me why.) The undated image at right is taken from the Russian social networking site known as "Odnoklassniki" ("Classmates"). The caption on the website reads "Russia, Moscow. Left 4 dead???"

And guess what, guys, she's still single! (Probably.)

Now, it's a little disconcerting to realize that, roughly two decades after the end of the Cold War, the Russians still feel the need to spy on us, or think they can get away with it. Remember, this little minx, and others like her, have been leading very public lives on Facebook. This leads one to believe that the really good spies from the KGB and other entities of the ancien regime have gone on to other livelihoods, like the black market, leaving the cloak-and-dagger game to amateurs who got their kicks reading bad translations of Tom Clancy novels and want to taste the real thing, and whose parents used to sell Levis knockoffs on the streets of Moscow.

But this is not the real threat posed by these little kittens.

They show up on personals websites with addresses like Kansas City, Missouri, young ladies with dreams of coming to America and meeting gullible young American men who can offer them love, marriage, a home, and a chance to take their benefactors to the cleaners once the green card comes through. It is small wonder. We are dealing with a culture which, for nearly a century, has been essentially godless, and therefore without a collective moral compass.

Ever do business in Russia? I don't know about now, but ten or fifteen years ago, my contacts wouldn't have recommended it. American companies would tell tales of warehouses discovered emptied of their merchandise, later to appear on -- you guessed it -- the black market. Businessmen from the States would tell of Russian enterpreneurs who could lie to their faces as easily as most Americans breathe. This is not a problem with individual Russians, many of whom long to be free of the bondage of moral bankruptcy. This is the cautionary tale of a nation, the very fabric of a society, deprived of God beyond living memory.

Singer Annie Haslam, with the band
Renaissance, in a live performance of "Mother Russia" (the long version, mind you) circa 1975. Lyrics by Betty Thatcher, music by Michael Dunford. Copyright by EMI Music Publishing. Used without permission or shame.

Was the demand of Our Lady appearing at Fatima, that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, actually fulfilled? The official answer from the Holy See is "Yes." The late Sister Lucia, the last surviving recipient of the visions, reportedly agreed. But there are those who say the conditions have not been met to the letter, probably because they think it would happen on their timetable and not God's.

This writer has no position on that issue -- You got that, you Medjugorje maniacs? NO! POSITION! -- only the knowledge of that which is left undone.

Red blood, white snow
He knows frozen rivers won't flow
So cold, so true
Mother Russia, he cries for you.

UPDATE: Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post writes: "Up to their old spy tricks again."

UPDATE, PART DEUX: The Washington Post reports that Marines are being warned about girls like Chapman during routine security briefings -- you know, the old "loose lips sink ships" routine. But as the Los Angeles Times discovers, veteran Russian espionage experts lament that the quality of the players isn't what it used to be.

Five Second Theatre: The May Rebellion

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

According to this scenario, America's fight for independence may have come sooner, but the coming months were pretty booked for them. Cholera in November, midwifing throughout February. They should have just rented out a message board in the town square to really sync up dates before the spring, when things got so hectic.

Flying Cars Revisited

Our dedicated readers (and you both know who you are) may remember when we posed the question asked by everyone upon greeting the new millennium: “Dude, where’s my flying car?” Well, if you just can't wait, we may have the solution here.

The Terrafugia Transition is designed as a 'light sport' aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification.

At just over $195K, it's a little pricey, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut ...

[The following was originally published on this date in 2006. -- DLA]

Today, the Christian world celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the reformed Roman calendar, it is recognized as a solemnity, and is a holyday of obligation in many countries (if not the USA). The traditional Roman calendar notes it as a double octave of the first class. Either way, it's up there on the food chain.

And speaking of food ...

The Catholic blogosphere has plenty of meditations on this day. This writer has decided on a different approach:

At the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut, candy and ice-cream shop owner Peter Paul Halajian used to meet the commuter trains carrying baskets full of fresh hand-made chocolates. The most popular of his candies was a blend of coconut, fruits, nuts, and chocolate that he called Konabar ...

Eventually Peter Paul merged with Cadbury, which later merged with Hershey. Not only is there a recipe for the Mounds and Almond Joy confections on the internet, but you can also bake a cake out of them, with recipes to be found here and here.

Of course, to learn about the Feast itself, what better place to recommend than the guy who's smart enough to recommend me -- TrueRestoration. But for me, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this feast than to bake a cake out of something that says "Peter Paul," unless the gang at Fisheaters has a better idea.

But hey, that's just me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Byrd (1917-2010)

The longest-serving member of the United States Senate died early this morning at Fairfax Hospital. He was 92.

It stands to reason that Senator Robert Byrd was very good to the people of West Virginia whose interests he represented, so much so that, despite the state having the second-lowest per capita income of the Union (only Mississippi is lower), the Mountain State was the beneficiary of a vastly disproportionate share of Federal aid. This distinction earned him the pejorative title of "The Prince of Pork."

PHOTO: Huntington, West Virginia, where the author spent part of his internship ... but that's another story.

Of course, one man's pork-barrel project is another man's ... well, the population of this mostly-rural state remains largely distrusting of the Federal government, which is rather ironic in light of the above. You could say this mistrust is warranted, its people having been raped of much of their natural resources over the decades, from corporate interests from out of state. On the other hand, many of their ancestors were foolish (or were deceived, depending on whom you ask) enough to have signed away the mineral rights on their own properties in perpetuity. And so it goes ...

Citing their own statutory law
, as well as a ruling from their secretary of state, West Virginia will not be holding a special election, but will wait for that which is scheduled in 2012. Meanwhile, the governor will appoint a provisional replacement, probably a Democrat. One wonders if the pipeline of generosity from inside the Beltway will ever flow so freely again.

Vapid and Hollow Charade: Day One

That is how Elena Kagan has referred to the process, which began today with the Senate Judiciary Committee, the one that is considering her appointment to the United States Supreme Court. The former Harvard Law School dean said that the process should include a “focused discussion of constitutional values, to ascertain the values held by the nominee and to evaluate whether the nominee possesses the values that the Supreme Court most urgently requires.” (The word "values" is used three times there. Heh.) One wonders if the Republicans will oblige her with the tough questioning she demands of them. Certainly the Washington Times has made the case for the opposition.

As Ms. Kagan's nomination hearings begin ... what we now know about her should disturb fair-minded Americans, and should embolden moderate senators of both parties to avoid rubber-stamping her ... Until Ms. Kagan became solicitor general, she not only had never been a judge, but she also had not even argued a single appeals case ...

There is sufficient precedent for a Supreme Court justice never having been a judge, even in recent years. But never having argued an appeals case? And to think she still managed to become dean of Harvard Law School. Amazing!

As you can imagine, the proceedings were pretty intense, as the junior senator from Minnesota could hardly contain himself.

Women and Men: Prelude

Lincoln Adams wants to know: “Why is it ok for women to say they are better than men at some things, but not ok for men to say they are better than women at some things?” It is, in fact, acceptable to men who are comfortable with their manhood, but not to women who are uncomfortable with their womanhood.


The Dream of Summer

One of the saddest things a father can witness, is the loss of innocence for his children.

When we broke the news to Paul twenty years ago, that his mother and I were splitting up, he was nearly five years old. I wanted to look brave, but I was sobbing profusely the whole time. After I went to my room, his mother came up and told me he laughed at the whole thing. No, I didn't believe it. But I knew what was ahead for him.

I remember going to his soccer games. He was a natural at the sport. His secret was speed. He was not one for long endurance, but for the short haul, he could outrun any other player on the team. After about three years, however, some of the other boys started to catch up, and he traded soccer for karate, eventually getting his black belt at eleven.

Paul was a straight-A student, and generally well-behaved around adults and in public. I used to tell people, "Paul practically raises himself." It was true, and that was the problem. At some point in the fifth grade, he started to crash. A friend of his had committed suicide over the summer, and he was haunted by a mysterious figure in his room, never seen, but often felt. He had also been dating by then -- yes, the fifth grade (over my strenuous objections), and the breakup triggered the spiral that was already in the making. Had I the power to do so, I would have had him come to live with me for his high school years. But the monthly support check had become a de facto alimony payment, and his mother wouldn't budge. The poseurs who preside over family court in Virginia would have believed anything she said. One never knows what might have happened, but I'm sure of what would NOT have happened.

By the time he began at the Art Institute at twenty-two, he was back on track, and manages to stay there. Still, when I watched the World Cup matches these past two weeks, I was reminded of those days gone by. During my weaker moments, I wonder ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Return to Duke of Gloucester Street

Some of you may remember a piece entitled "Life on Duke of Gloucester Street" from last April, and a theatrical presentation of "A Colonial Williamsburg Adventure: Revolutionary City." This included a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. There was an eerie parallel with what we have been reading in the news of late, providing cause for reflection in a footnote:

As I listened to the Declaration being read, I found myself wondering whether history was repeating itself, and found a certain appreciation for those who have protested the current political situation in America. Click here, dear reader, and judge for yourself.

Or, better yet, click HERE for Chris Muir's imaginative approach.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Clint Webb for Senate

The entire staff and management of man with black hat is proud to endorse Clint Webb as our candidate of choice for the United States Senate. Don't ask us why. (H/T to Eric Wilson, the whitest kid I know.)


Have you ever said or done anything so provocative in public, that in the eyes of all who knew you, you would be seen in a different light, and your life would never be the same again?

Twice in the first six months of this year, we here at mwbh have done precisely that. With respect to the scandals that have rocked the Church in the past decade, we have made at least one bold prediction, and we have made at least one startling claim, neither of which the American bishops want you to know. But did you notice? HELL no! Obviously there's a pie in the oven, or your kids need to be driven to yet another soccer practice. (You couldn't just put them on the bus, could you? Teach them some responsibility. Hah!)

Well, the good news is that they haven't caught on to us yet. The bad news is ... oh, never mind. Have a great weekend!

FAMW: Michael Savage

Kathy Shaidle posted this the other day. Gotta hand it to her cheeky irreverence. A syndicated radio talk show host by the name of Dr Michael Savage starts out by saying out much he dislikes most people -- there's a name for that sort of fellow, but I can't remember it now; anyone? -- then goes on to propose a connection between shrimp, mercury poisoning, and liberalism as a mental disorder. I don't think Cardinal Newman's thoughts on the latter went quite that far, but I could be wrong. Such an ornery, disagreeable SOB. Sure wish I had him for a neighbor.

It was broadcast last Monday, just in time for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Walking the Line at Montreux

The late Johnny Cash was one of the most influential figures in American music in the post war period. He managed to combine elements of folk, rock 'n' roll and country, which together with his distinctive voice and guitar style, created an instantly recognisable sound. 1994 was to prove to be Cash's only appearance at the Montreux Festival. The “Man In Black” had just released his acclaimed American Recordings album and his European tour took in Montreux on July 5. This track is taken from the Eagle Vision DVD "Live at Montreux". (From the liner notes to the clip.)

Guitar Workshop: Carter Picking Revisited

Some of our readers (and you both know who you are) may remember a piece we did for this series entitled “Gettin’ Rhythm” back in April. We introduced the style of folk rhythm called the "Carter lick." In looking back, it seemed that some of the explanation may not have been sufficiently clear, notably the right hand technique. So we've decided to take a look at that aspect of it.

Mother Maybelle Carter adapted the strumming styles of the autoharp into a pattern for guitar. Watch in the first clip as instructor Denny Sarokin plays the bass and melody notes with the thumb, and brushes the chords up & down with the fingertips. As with our previous lesson, he plays “Wildwood Flower” for an example. This lesson is available on a DVD entitled "Songwriter's Guide to Great Guitar," available from

And just in case, we have a closer look at a classic tune by Johnny Cash entitled “I Walk The Line” played both at half-speed and full-speed.

Most singer-songwriters who play guitar are not particularly great guitar players. Some of them even resort to the piano as a more "serious" instrument. Nothing against pianos (this writer has a keyboard in his living room where a piano might be), but for most performing, and to capture the "folk" ambiance of their music, the use of beginner-to-intermediate-level guitar techniques, such as is shown in this installment, is enough to get them through the evening.

That, and a song worth singing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting “Real” Revisited

Earlier today, we offered a reflection based on video commentary, originating with a media site known as RealCatholicTV, in a piece entitled “Is Catholic TV Getting ‘Real’?”. A casual read of that piece might lead one to believe that we took issue with their commentary. This would only happen if the reader wasn't paying attention, however, as a closer examination shows otherwise.

We here at mwbh invite readers to examine this hard-hitting forum for news and analysis for themselves. You can now see both the Catholic News Roundup, and the insightful commentary of The Vortex, over in the right-hand sidebar with the other Usual Suspects.

Registration is required, and the basic membership is free.

Is Catholic TV Getting “Real”?

We hear enough about a "crisis in the Church." The 2002 clergy scandals in Boston were the jump-start for much of the Catholic blogosphere, as new voices emerged to confront the issues of the day. More recently, an Evangelical preacher by the name of Armstrong Williams maintains that the "American revival" must begin with the Catholic Church. It's time to start talking tough, boys and girls. Time for the long pants, time to bring out the big guns, time to take off the gloves, time to hunker down, time to call, raise, or fold. Listen to Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV.

Michael is right. He's absolutely right. And he knows just where the blame is, too, right at the top of the heap, with a bunch of guys who will never have to open their own car door, or have a bad meal, for the rest of their lives. But are they stupid? Oh, no! In fact, they've got the huddled masses in the pews at the Masses right where they want them. All the threats in the world from those who challenge them are easy enough to ignore, unless those challengers give them incentive to do otherwise.

You see, the American bishops have discovered, that they can effectively spread the blame for the scandals around, and still appear to have a handle on things, by making US responsible for ensuring that our children are safe, even from ourselves. They've managed to bully your Aunt Minnie, who's been teaching Catechism for the last fifty years without incident, into being subject to a background check as if she's interviewing for the CIA, and into being fingerprinted like a common criminal, so that she may continue teaching Catechism for the few years she has left.

The same goes for anyone who has "substantial contact with minors." By this definition, all of us are a potential risk, just sitting in the same pew with someone else's family. Maybe that's the idea. After all, they know that YOU don't know, that they may actually have no authority under canon law to put you through this. They also know that YOU don't know, that some of them are being challenged for this charade in the Roman Rota, the highest court of appeals in the Church, by their own priests!!!

Still, they have you believing they've got you over a barrel, alright ... or do they?

Mark Shea has made the observation, that if all the bishops were to be replaced tomorrow, very little would change, because their replacements would be the product of the same culture that wrought their predecessors. If that's true, we're not exactly off the hook either. You'll hear a lot in the Catholic media about "changing the culture." How does that work exactly? Obviously, it goes farther than merely changing ourselves.

We might look no farther than a segment of yesterday's report on Gloria.TV News, the one that appears at 01:19 into this clip.

FRANCE: Approximately 200 young Catholics came to the defense of the Cathedral of Lyons, France, during a "kiss-in" protest held by homosexuals in front of the building last month. The homosexuals reportedly came on the eve of the "World Day Against Homophobia" in May to kiss each other in front of the cathedral, presumably in protest against the Catholic Church's 2,000-year-old condemnation of homosexual sex acts. In a video recently released by ACI Prensa, the counter-protesters can be seen forming a line several layers deep in front of the cathedral, holding up crucifixes, the flag of Vatican City, and a large banner stating “No More Catholophobia.” The homosexual demonstrators were jeering, blaspheming, and insulting the Catholics, while the Catholic counter-demonstrators were kneeling, praying, and singing hymns.

You don't need a bishop's permission to attend Mass, nor to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. You also don't need his permission to make some noise. We can talk as tough as we like, but are we prepared to act on it?

The thing is, it could get ugly.

Five Second Theatre: For The Last Time Don’t Eat My Muffins!

Time once again for our regular midday Wednesday feature.

It happens every day. Rousselet opens up the mirrored medicine cabinet, gets out his Cialis, closes the cabinet door - and reveals his reflection, snacking on some delicious breakfast pastries. It's not even scary these days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“They do Rahm, Rahm, Rahm, they do Rahm, Rahm ...”

I was thinking about the Nation's energy policy tonight. It was right after the lights came on after being out for two hours. There are reports that Arlington County may have as many as 15,000 customers go through the night before the lights come on again. Then I got to thinking about the White House chief of staff, and the rumors of his leaving the job. A lot of jockeying around usually takes place around mid-term, especially in a highly ideological administration. (It's not just this one; Reagan's first term was the same way.)

I just love how he can see the good in any situation, don't you?

Scouting on the Mall (and that ain’t all!)

As a boy, I knew it as the "Dan Beard Scout Reservation." It was a combination of two properties -- Camp Friedlander and Camp Craig.

Friedlander was a fully furnished Scout camp, with overnight cabins and a horse ranch. It also had a dining hall with its own "Eagle's Nest," a separate lounge dedicated to recipients of Scouting's highest rank. It was also where we had an area conference of the Order of the Arrow one year. Camp Craig was a more primitive facility, with only a few cabins rarely used, but at least it had a pool. I spent at least three summers there.

The camp or camps, depending on how you look at it, or them, is or are featured on this video from Cincinnati, which introduces the fun and excitement of “Adventure Base 100” on its multi-city tour. (Click on the image at right for a closer look.) The exhibit is coming to Washington, DC, and will be at the National Mall from July 23 through August 8. This show-and-tell will be ...

... the ultimate Scouting experience. This experiential 10,000-square-foot campus provides an exciting view of the Boy Scouts of America's illustrious 100-year history and influential future. Rolling into more than 40 different cities across the country in 2010, Adventure Base 100 features a ropes course, hands-on exhibits, a multi-sensory IMAX-like Go Scouting! Dome, and much, much more!

I'll be there too. Look for a guy who looks like me, only he's in uniform.

Emily’s Choice

A recent editorial by liberal columnist and longtime McLaughlin Group regular Eleanor Clift is entitled: “EMILY's List: Confronting the Growing Ambivalence Over Abortion.” In an look at the future direction of the pro-choice fundraiser ("Early Money Is Like Yeast, because it helps to raise the dough."), Eleanor compares current sentiment over abortion to when the organization was founded a quarter century ago, and how today ...

... attitudes about abortion are a lot more nuanced. Just about every woman has seen her own or someone else's sonogram, and it's not so easy to insist that no laws need apply. Younger women have a more complex view of abortion, and they don't view the issue as passionately as their mothers. "If you ask them if they support abortion rights, they say they don't know or they don't want to answer that question," says Jen Bluestein, Emily's List communications director.

This is a cautionary tale for clinging tenaciously to an unsound premise; the idea that a higher purpose than a woman's choice -- rather, the life of someone else who deserves a choice -- is somehow going to go away, because enough voices on Park Avenue or Hollywood would wish it away. As science and technology advance, the ability to know more sooner, only brings one to the inevitable sooner.

The so-called "woman's right to choose" is a poor excuse for a choice. A new generation of women are coming to term with the obvious, and may be wondering how they survived their own mother's "right."

Monday, June 21, 2010

“A young man from a small town, with a very large imagination...” (2010 Edition)

When I began writing mwbh in 2002, there was a discussion among Catholic weblog owners concerning the mention of personal material on their sites. One insight shared by the discussion's hostess, Eve Tushnet, was worth noting:

... [W]hen it's presented with a little more care for one's own privacy, the personal aspects of blogging can help other people really understand your philosophy -- the underlying worldview that unites your stances on, say, gun control, Bruce Springsteen, and race relations in Milwaukee. Blogs help show that politics isn't -- or shouldn't be -- some disconnected policy preferences; political beliefs should flow from underlying ethical and ultimately metaphysical beliefs that you live with all day long. (Or try to, anyway.) ...

Shortly thereafter, I wrote a bio to introduce myself to my new audience. But after eight years of the road more or less traveled, I decided it was in need of revision.

My name (for those didn't catch it by now) is David Lawrence Alexander. I am a 55-year-old graphic/multimedia designer and videographer/editor working for the Federal government. (The "multimedia" part is a work in progress. See below.) I have a townhouse in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from what is politely known as "the Nation's capital." My son, Paul, is going on twenty-five years old, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he majors in interactive design and game development at the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. My best friend and ever-present companion, "Sal" (not her real name), a native of the Philippines, is a personal care assistant.

My roots in the southwest quadrant of Ohio date to the 1840s, at least five generations. The majority of my ancestors came from the Alsace-Lorraine region of what was sometimes Germany, but what is now France. The "Alexandre" line came to northern continental Europe from Scotland in the 17th century, after some sort of unpleasantness with England, so it is likely that I am descended from Scottish chieftains. Or something.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, just three days after Christmas, and the worst time of the year to have a birthday. My parents have always sent me a card, if no one else does, and if only out of guilt.

When I was still in the cradle, we moved to a village just east of Cincinnati (and closer to our "kin and ken") known as Milford, where I lived until I moved to DC in 1980. The oldest of four -- boy, girl, boy, girl, in that order -- I attended Catholic grade school and high school. From there, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati. After two years of various studio assignments, I got the big break from my rich uncle. (Sam. Maybe you know him.) I have been on his payroll every since.

I am the only member of my immediate family to have left the Cincinnati area. I sign all my letters home, "Your long lost son ..."

Along the way, I learned to play both the guitar and the banjo (the latter in the old-time mountain style; I don't do bluegrass), and can fake my way through several other instruments laying around the house. I've also been known to sing. In addition, I have been an avid folkdancer for more than thirty years. My passion in recent years has been zydeco, which is the music and dance of the Creole people of southwest Louisiana.

At 11, I became an altar boy; at 17, an Eagle Scout; at 35, a purple belt in karate. I still claim all three titles. Speaking of Boy Scouting, I returned to the uniform after a long hiatus in July of 2004, and am currently an Assistant District Commissioner with the National Capital Area Council of the BSA.

From 2004 to 2009, I pursued diploma studies in web design and interactive media at the Art Institute of Washington (see above). I stopped short of obtaining the diploma. Long story.

I also spend much of Sunday morning at the Church of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, where I am a Master of Ceremonies for the Traditional Latin Mass. Sometimes on the night before, Sal and I go dancing, where I am into Latin there as well.

Finally, I read too much for my own good, which was enough to make me think I should never have an unpublished thought -- hence the presence of this site you are reading now.

So ... what's next?

(Apologies to John Prine, from whose lyrics the title of this entry originates.)

Pieces of Eight

PHOTO: The author, in one of his definitively Catholic moments, Palm Sunday, 2009.

On this day, in the year of Our Lord 2002, the weblog known as man with black hat began publishing. Earlier today, it received its 150,000th visitor since we began keeping track on this date in the year of Our Lord 2006.

In the eight years since the beginning, this writer has seen other "bloggers" come and go, particularly those which identify themselves as "Catholic blogs." What is that, I wonder, a "Catholic blog"? Is it enough that the writer happens to be a Catholic? Is it required that they only talk about matters pertaining to the Faith? Is their catholicity affirmed by multiple (not to mention tacky) images of religious devotion, and photographs of high churchmen held in equally high esteem?

When we read books like Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, or Michael Foley's Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything, we realize the depth of influence on everyday life, by an entity committed to the Truth, being all too aware that said Truth possesses an objective and verifiable meaning. This can extend beyond matters of religion, which is not unreasonable to expect from the Source of Truth, He Who created everything. Such is part and parcel of what the Greeks called a phronema -- that is, a "mind set," or a "way of looking at things." Eventually this writer chose as the manifesto for this work, a quotation from Thomas Storck's The Catholic Milieu, which can always be found at the sidebar:

“Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue.

This is an important distinction to make. Many Catholic bloggers are so determined to make their site "all Catholic, all the time," on the assumption that such is expected of them. Even monastic life has more variety.

There are blogs that get their share of awards every year. Some of them are excellent, and their review is part of this writer's daily routine. Others are of varying degrees of merit, which owe their success in large part to the ability to gain attention (albeit rather fleeting, as we have seen on at least one occasion, along with this writer's reaction thereto). Some weblog authors receive acclaim in the professional realm, more for their enthusiasm than for their erudition. They do not necessarily have anything to say, but they serve a larger purpose, usually for a mainstream Catholic press, which is only now beginning to take the medium of the weblog seriously, as opposed to a mere conduit for promoting printed works.

So who is the audience for man with black hat?

They are people who appreciate the importance of faith influencing the culture, beyond persuading everyone to go to church on Sundays and/or railing about societal immorality (which has always been with us in some form or another). They love their Mother, the Church, and would see Her defended from attacks, both from without and within. They love Her priests, knowing that those priests do not belong on a pedestal, but in our hearts and in our lives. They know that the official worship of the Church, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is what the Second Vatican Council referred to, as a foretaste of the Perfect Liturgy in Heaven, that its correct celebration exists symbiotically with correct belief, and that both must extend beyond the doors of their parish church, and "duc in altum" -- put into the deep.

They are people who read good books (including those mentioned above), people who appreciate art and music. They are mindful of the poem by Hillaire Belloc ...

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

... and are wont to share their Faith, and their joy of life, with others. This sharing need not be extravagant, but may be found in the simple pleasures of life, the joy of God's creation, and the occasional good yarn.

If this writer can provide a glimpse into that vision, that phronema, then our efforts may be considered well spent. This sojourn will continue in this corner of the blogosphere for the foreseeable future, in the hope that you, dear reader, and others of your ilk, may continue to share our journey with us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

WWW, Yes. FCC, No.

Right now, you are reading with a medium that works just fine the way it is.

There may be objectionable content on it, but if you're not looking for it, and if you monitor the access your children have to this medium, it won't matter. You are your own regulatory agency.

Unfortunately, that's not good enough for the Federal Communications Commission. Now they want a piece of the action. It's not about making America safe for anything; it's about control. Radio and television needed regulation because the space for broadcasting was limited, and someone had to play traffic cop. The field that is the "world wide web" gets bigger every day, and with every technological advance. It doesn't need a traffic cop.

Nick Gillespie of Reason.TV lists three reasons why regulation of the internet is a bad idea. There are so many more.

Nietzsche Was Right

From Twitter: “My dad is the smartest, weirdest dude I think I've ever met. Probably explains a few things about me. Happy father's day, @manwithblackhat!”

Awwww. He called me “dude.”

Father’s Day 2010

I managed to save the text of a poem that Paul wrote for me in honor of Father's Day. It would have been around 1995, by which time he was almost ten years old, and his precociousness had found its way to pen and paper. Fifteen years later, the kid still cracks me up.

I met a man,
A queer old guy
His name was Mr Star Trek.
I said, "What's that thing on your turtleneck?"

"It's a starfleet communicator," the man replied.
"What did you think it was?"
I decided to say something later.

"Where are you from?"
I asked the old man.
He said, "Why, the 23rd-24th century."
I think he was happy
By his new world discovery.

What I asked him
Those queer questions,
And did what I wanted to do,
The things that he said,
He should be on meds (medicine).
Dad, he reminded me of you.

I believe it was Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the unveiled secret of the father.” There's a message there somewhere.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Learning to Fly, on the Fly

Ever try landing a jumbo jet?

We've all seen it on TV and in the movies, haven't we? The pilot gets shot, the co-pilot gets a heart attack, and only our hero who gets a bag of peanuts in business class can save everyone. Brian Palmer of Slate tells us how it can be done, with the assistance of a flight attendant who managed to keep her head.

A flight attendant had to fill in for a sick co-pilot on a Chicago-bound American Airlines flight Monday. If she had been alone in the cockpit, could someone on the ground have coached her through the landing, as in the movies?

It's possible, but ...

Hey, I earned the Aviation Merit Badge when I was fifteen. How's that?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Return to Narnia (Reprise)

[We ran this piece back in March, but since then, the trailer for the movie has come out. So hey, let's do it again. -- DLA]

Recently I heard from David Nevue, pianist-composer and founder of Whisperings Radio in Eugene, Oregon, about plans for the third segment of the Chronicles of Narnia saga, produced by Walden Media and distributed by Disney.

The filmmakers behind the Narnia movies, admitting they "made some mistakes" with 2008's Prince Caspian, believe they have righted the ship for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, coming to theaters in December ...

Douglas Gresham, stepson of author C S Lewis and de facto guardian of his legacy, has been a co-producer of the films from the start. What could go wrong?

This film will now be distributed by 20th Century Fox, and be directed by Michael Apted, replacing Andrew Adamson. It will continue to star Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley as the two younger siblings Edmund and Lucy. (You may remember that the older two sibs were said by the great Aslan as having outgrown the experience. Or something.) Personally, I liked Caspian, and I look forward to seeing the adventure continue.

For Narnia! For Aslan!! For the complete boxed set on DVD or Blu-Ray!!!


FAMW: Rango

Rango is an action-adventure film, directed by Gore Berbinski, about a chameleon with an identity crisis. Hard to imagine, but not for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. The movie is slated by Paramount to be released next year.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“It’s just a machine ...”

“Sal” has been in the States for eight years now, and became a citizen nearly a year ago. Back in the Philippines she owned a car, but the highways of Metro Manila are a bit more narrow than in the USA, so driving is a slightly riskier proposition. Between using a hired driver (a service quite common there), and her daughters monopolizing the wheel, she didn't get much of a chance to drive. So it was a dream of hers, ever since she landed here, to have the freedom of her own set of wheels, and her own choice to drive it.

Two weeks ago, she found the ride of her dreams; a 2010 limited edition jet-black Honda Accord 2-Door Coupe, fully loaded, including a sun roof, and heated leather seats. The deal was closed early this week. That's her with her new baby, holding the keys. (Go ahead, click on her. You know you want to!) Oh, sure, her work is three miles away, right on the bus route, and her idea of a long trip is the 25 miles to her brother's house. But a high-class gal like this deserves no less than the feel of genuine leather against her ...

Ronnie Milsap made a splash in 1984, with the Miami Vice-styled video for his hit that year, “She Loves My Car.” Shot in LA for the MTV market (back when that channel was actually about the music), it featured cameos by Herve Villechaize (the little guy from Fantasy Island), Britt Ekland and Morgan Fairchild. Please note the gorgeous 20-year-old brunette in the red dress, an unknown actress moonlighting her way through film school. That would be Mariska Hargitay, who stars as detective Olivia Benson on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Meanwhile, closer to home, “I wish she loved me the way she loves ...”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Buck Stops ...?

I didn't watch the President's speech last night. Even his most ardent supporters among the talking heads weren't impressed. But it brought to mind what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has said about accountability, and what the late Admiral Hyman Rickover once said about it:

Responsibility is a unique concept. It can only reside and inhere in a single individual. You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you. You may disclaim it, but you cannot divest yourself of it. Even if you do not recognize it or admit its presence, you cannot escape it. If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion or ignorance or passing the blame can pass the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.


Five Second Theatre: Live Fast

It's time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature, an unusual look at the space/time continuum.

Rose Swan and Eddie Dawson met in a malt shop just outside of Tuscaloosa on a Friday night in 1958. This is their fascinating story, but be advised. If you blink your eyes just once, you'll miss an entire decade.

Drop Kick Me: The Extra Point

You may remember our previous report, about the giant statue that burned to the ground, leaving only the skeleton. It has been described by Mediaite as "the world's largest statue of Jesus Christ." Well, not quite. "ex political-media hack" was a commenter who provided the following:

Cristo de la Concordia in Bolivia at 112 ft

Christ Blessing (Kristus kase Berkat) in Indonesia at 95 ft

Cristo Redentor do Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer) in Rio at 98.5 ft

Cristo del Otero in Palencia, Spain at 98.5 ft

Cristo-Rei (Christ the King) in Almada Portugal at 92 ft

Christ of Vung Tau in Vietnam at 92 ft

Cristo Rei of Dili (Christ the King) in Timor Leste at 88.6 ft

Christ the King of Cali in Columbia at 85 ft

The Broken Christ in San José de Gracia, Mexico at 82 ft

Christ Roi des Houches in Les Houches, Haute-Savoie, France at 82 ft

Cristo Blanco (White Christ) in Cusco, Cusco Province, Peru at 82 ft

Cristo Rey de los Álamos in Tijuana, Mexico at 76 ft

Christ the King in Saint Apollonia mount in Pachuca, Hidalgo Mexico at 75 ft

Cristo del Sagrado Corazon (Christ of the Sacred Heart in Rosarito, Baja Mexico at 75 ft

Christ the Redeemer of Maratea in Maratea, province of Potenza, Italy at 72 ft

Cristo de las Noas in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico at 71.5 ft

Christ of Havana in Habana, Cuba at 65.5 ft

Cristo de “Las Mesas” in San Ignacio, Sinaloa, Mexico at 65.5 ft

Christ of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at 65.5 ft

Cristo de El Cubilete (Christ King of the Mountain of El Cubilete) in Silao, Guanajuata, Mexico at 67 ft

and then

King of Kings statue in Monroe, Ohio at 62 ft

We just want to set the record straight here at mwbh.

Betty White and the Meaning of Life

Comedic actress Betty White was interviewed on Comedy Central's The Daily Show the other night. Her new situation comedy, Hot in Cleveland, premieres tonight at 10pm eastern on TV Land. The story takes place in Cleveland, as did The Drew Carey Show, which was fun to watch until it got too, uh, mature in certain thematic treatments. I hope that doesn't happen here.

Though, personally, I think Cleveland could use a little cheering up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Can you feel the love tonight?”

I'm closing out today with this clip of Rush Limbaugh's broadcast about his wedding, where the singer for the reception was Elton John. Apparently divergent views on same-sex attraction did not stop these two from getting along FAAAABulously. (Two of my best friends from college were ... hey, I'm just saying it can happen!) I don't know what to make of the whole thing, so I'll leave it to you, dear reader.

Jimmy Dean (1928-2010)

Jimmy Ray Dean, a poor boy from Plainview, Texas, who was a well-established country music entertainer throughout the 1950s and 1960s, died Sunday evening of natural causes, at his home in Varina, Henrico County, Virginia. He was 81. Dean first learned to perform music while singing hymns in the parlour of the farmhouse, with his devoted mother, Ruth, on the piano. You can read his obituary here.

Less than four months earlier, Dean was nominated to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I was in college, and living at home (go figure!) in 1976, when Dean recorded and released “IOU” as a tribute to his mother, and to mothers everywhere. It became a Top Ten country hit, his first in a decade, and peaked at number three on the RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks chart). Dad was so taken by the song, that he bought the record, went to WCKY Radio, had all the disk jockeys sign it, and presented it to Mom on Mother's Day. What a romantic!

All that notwithstanding, Dean's greatest hit was “Big Bad John” in 1961, sung here during a comeback performance in the 1980s. He continued to perform and act in various TV series. Dean is also known for the brand of sausage that bears his name. This wasn't a lark or a publicity gimmick, but a venture started by himself and his brother, with ads that featured him personally. Raised on a hog farm himself, the guy just wanted a decent sausage. (Is that too much to ask?) He eventually sold the company in 1984, to what later became the Sara Lee Corporation.

According to his website: “Since retiring from the entertainment and food businesses, Jimmy enjoy[ed] life at home, fishing in his fresh water ponds and boating on the James River.”

Drop Kick Me, Jesus

The local ABC affiliate in Cincinnati caught this last night. There was this giant statue north of Cincinnati, an upper-torso figure of Christ with His arms upraised. Apparently it got struck by lightning, and all that's left now is the frame. I'll bet most people going by I-75 had no idea it was made of styrofoam. That thing was a goner in minutes. There's nothing left this morning but something that looks like goal posts. Speaking of which ...

It was called “Touchdown Jesus” by the neighbors, and that brings to mind a tune by Bobby Bare. I'll leave the explaining to him. “Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life / End over end, neither left nor the right / Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights / Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life.”

Can I get an “Amen?”

UPDATE: Rock Solid Church, where the statue was situated, plans to rebuild it. A unnamed Cincinnati blogger wonders if they'll do it in three days. We'll keep you posted.

“Whether ... times are good or bad, or happy or sad ...”

We'll have more on Alvin Greene, the Democratic candidate for the Senate from South Carolina, later in the week, if there's nothing else to talk about. But listen for yourself as to why a guy who can barely get through a two-minute television interview could get 60 percent of the vote. Exit question: how much can you blame the leadership of the Nation for the ways things are shaping up, if THIS were typical of enough of the electorate?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Dude, where’s my flying car?

I just read an article in Slate about the future of intercity transportation. That got me thinking: Do you ever wonder what the future will be like?

When I was a boy, the Astro Boy cartoons were a big favorite. The narrator made a point of reminding you that the story was taking place in the year 2000. The Seattle World's Fair in 1962 (or was it the New York World's Fair in 1964-65?) assured us that there would be videophones and flying cars by the end of the century.

I did the math, and discovered that I would be forty-five years old by then. I feared the prospect of gray hair back then. Now I consider it an improvement. But, I digress ...

It's now 2010. Videophones never quite caught on when available early in the decade, but webcams have. Now "Sal" can see her daughters in the Philippines when talking to them through Skype. And the next generation of smartphones will embed webcams, so people can see you talking to them while you're walking down the street, until you run into a telephone pole and break your phone. Or your face.

Meanwhile, about that flying car ...

See, here's the real trick. Most of these advances would be more likely, if technology always went along a straight line, but it doesn't. We fail to appreciate that the desktop computers in our home, and the phones we carry in our hands, are only possible because someone invented the microchip, and that was only possible because someone else before them invented integrated circuits, which in turn replaced transistors. My flying car isn't ready because ... well, the genius behind what's in the second clip, and who is speaking in the third clip, has been at this project for over thirty years, and he's gone through millions of dollars. A prototype is supposed to be flying in 2012, with models available "a few years later" for around half a million dollars.

But first (and I'm no expert, but I'm judging from the earlier clips I've seen), he may have to develop a better means of stabilizing the craft while off the ground.

He'd better hurry.

The Case For/Against Marriage

My parents were married fifty-eight years ago today, so it seems like the perfect occasion for the subject of this venerable institution. During the month of June, in Newsweek magazine, Andrew Romano makes the case for marriage, while Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison make the case against it.


“O! say can you see ...?”

Today is Flag Day in the United States. If you want to know more about it, look it up.

Meanwhile, we'll give you a taste of what happened unexpectedly at one of those "tea parties" in Douglas County, Georgia. Some war veteran started singing the last verse (not the second, as he suggests) to the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.” (No, this isn't about the Tea Party movement, this is about Our Flag. We'll have plenty of time for tea later in the year.)

In an piece written earlier this year, we discussed the possibility of a fifty-first state, what the flag would look like, and who takes care of that sort of thing. Below is an app which will help you imagine how its appearance might continue to change in the future, a little Flag Day fun, courtesy of Slate magazine. (NOTE: For scenarios of fifty-one stars or more, the "alternate" option is the most plausible -- maybe.)


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Isn’t It Romantic?

Over at Creative Minority Report, Patrick Archbold is asking for trouble with Mrs Archbold by cracking wise over “Sexism in Advertising.” But before she makes him spend the night on the couch, she may want to watch Jack Jones in this 1964 performance on The Joey Bishop Show. He won the Grammy that year for Best Male Vocal Performance with this song “Wives and Lovers” penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Things could be worse.

Friday, June 11, 2010

UC Remembers 1970

Earlier this year, the Nation remembered the campus protests of forty years earlier, in particular the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State, in the wake of President Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia. It was forty years ago this past month, that protests at the University of Cincinnati interrupted the normal academic routine, to the point where President Walter Langsam ordered the University closed for the remainder of the term. This included the evacuation of the dormitories. As a result, hundreds of students were forced to leave town and miss their graduation ceremony.

Tonight, just forty years later, members of the Class of 1970 are participating in commencement exercises, courtesy of the UC Alumni Association.

Go Bearcats!

(Video production and editing by Walter Nini, UC Electronic Media. Directed by John Bach and Amanda Chalifoux, UC Magazine.)

Graduation Daze

To all readers of man with black hat who are graduating this year, whether it's from college, high school, grade school, trade school, pre-school, even HOME school -- this is the card I was going to send to each and every one of you. But when I got to the Hallmark store, it was gone. I just assumed it was so popular, it had sold out. But alas, such was not the case. Personally, I think these people are getting bent out of shape over nothing. (No, you big dummies, that is NOT an “R” sound. The character is talking about the solar system, and he is saying “black HOLE!”)

This reminds me of the time I had to look up the word “niggardly” in the dictionary to find out what it really meant. It was either that, or ask a bunch of boneheads like the ones in this news segment. Hopefully, you've learned to be smarter than them, regardless of race, creed, color, or ethnic or national origin. You don't have to be white to be bright, ‘cuz all you gotta be is RIGHT!

Congratulations to y'all, and have a good life.

FAMW: Sharp Dressed Band

If I ever marry again, you can bet your boots there's going to be a live band. None of this deejay stuff. I didn't spend most of my life as a musician just to end up selling out when it really matters. Bands like Rick K and the Allnighters of Morgantown, West Virginia, are one of the many reasons why. In case you missed it, this clip went viral all last week, and we've got it here, just in time for everybody to have already seen enough. Then again, who could possibly get enough of that drummer?

Something to consider for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.