Tuesday, August 31, 2010

“Cujus regni non erit finis.”

(“...of whose kingdom there shall be no end.”)

There's been quite a buzz in the Catholic blogosphere concerning the "Restoring America" rally in DC last Saturday, organized by Glenn Beck of Fox News Channel. Recently he was caught getting in touch with his inner Rockefeller-Republican, when he put his foot all the way in his mouth and told Bill O'Reilly: “Honestly, I think we have bigger fish to fry. You can argue about abortion or gay marriage or whatever all you want. The country is burning down ... I don't think marriage, that the government actually has anything to do with ... that is a religious right ... I believe that Thomas Jefferson said, 'If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?'.”

Uh, Glenn, they actually called it "sodomy" in Jefferson's day. It's safe to assume he would have had an opinion typical of the gentile classes of the time, you big dummy!

It is here that we come to the part of "the conservative movement" that is the Achilles heel of many faithful Catholics. We know that the Founding Fathers established a system of laws and governance, which could only be effective for a civil and moral people, and would be unsuited for any less. (There's a quote to that effect, but darned if I can find it. Anybody?) Yet even those Catholics who identify themselves as "orthodox" fail to reach a consensus over the application of the social encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII and his successors. This disagreement is most visibly manifest in the lively exchange between Mr Thomas Storck and Dr Thomas Woods (two scholarly writers, both of whose work I respect and admire), but is not limited to them.

Über-traditionalists in our midsts will often refer to "The Social Reign of Christ the King," or simply "The Social Kingship of Christ." This is the mandate, as best expressed by Pope Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas, to spread the Gospel to all corners of the Earth, that the teachings of Christ, as taught by His Church, may rule in men's hearts, thus in their conduct of daily affairs, and eventually, in their civic affairs. (That's the short version, not a complete one. Remain calm.) Some would contend that author George Weigel, as heard in the second clip, scoffs at the very idea, in submitting that such a declaration at an institutional level is "outside the competence of the state."

Would such a "separation of church and state" (for desperate want of a better term) necessarily frustrate efforts toward the Social Kingship in America?

What if the answer is NO?

I am not convinced that it would be necessary to establish a Catholic monarchy in North America, or even an essentially Catholic republic at the offset, in order to bring this "Social Kingship" about. Every time the discussion is broached about inculcating Catholic values in the public arena, it is invariably along conservative/liberal or Republican/Democratic lines. Why does that twenty-one percent of the USA population which identifies itself as Catholic, assume they must be hemmed in by these confines, when genuine Catholic moral and social teaching does not fit particularly well into either? There is certainly enough inspiration for such a paradigm shift, in such fora as The American Catholic, Caelum et Terra, The Distributist Review, and (depending on who you ask) Vox Nova.

IMAGE: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier, in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

But why has this not taken to the streets? Why, during the last Presidential election, did we witness Catholics having to choose between abortion as the most significant versus the least significant issue among Catholics? Why was that even a choice?

Given the great body of literary work in the past century alone -- Belloc, Chesterton, McNabb, not to mention several Popes -- such an omission by greater minds than yours and (even) yours truly is inexcusable. And frankly, we have only ourselves to blame, if we think we have to choose between the lesser of two evils. His Kingdom is not of this world. Isn't it time to stop thinking on the terms of the world?

We can worry about proclaiming me as the first Catholic monarch in North America at a later date.

(H/T to Kristin B.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Katrina Revisited

(We have several entries from the wake of events that occurred five years ago. They are produced here as they appeared when published. The last entry will show that this writer was rather preoccupied himself at the time. -- DLA)

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Thursday, September 1, 2005

It Ain't Easy in "The Big Easy"

By now, everybody has heard about the flooding of New Orleans and surrounding parishes, caused by the recent Hurricane Katrina. The mayor has estimated the death toll in the thousands, and that it will be the city at least two months to be operational. Until then, he has ordered its evacuation.

For those who stayed behind, many are stranded on rooftops. Hundreds of hospital employees are still stuck at their facility after having evacuated the patients. On the flooded streets, there is looting of the stores, as people are making away with foodstuffs and infant supplies, in an attempt to survive. The looting has erupted into total mayhem, like Mardi Gras turned ugly, as people with stolen firearms are shooting at helicopters attempting to help with the evacuation. Local police have actually been called away from rescue detail, simply to restore some sense of order.

People are even attempting to enter refugee centers with their recently acquired big-screen plasma TVs. Maybe they floated on them, and so they have sentimental value. Beats the hell outa me...

Last night, I watched MSNBC's Scarborough Country, where some very moving accounts are being reported. "One man came up to us. He took the water, took it back to his wife. She was weeping silently in the passenger side of the front seat. And the man looked down. He said, ‘How much do I owe you? I don't have much. I have lost everything.’ And we said, you owe us nothing. They drove away weeping." There's more. I've heard reports of people driving south with truckloads of bottled water, and simply leaving their cargo at the edge of disaster areas.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds excerpts from his Instapundit weblog on the MSNBC website, with information on how to support relief organizations involved in the effort. I'd recommend any of them, but especially Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. In addition, the Boy Scouts of America is weighing in as part of their "Good Turn for America" initiative.

In addition, you might check out Wal-Mart, a commercial partner in the relief effort.

Stay tuned for more developments -- and this writer's own thoughts on the crisis (some of which are not far removed from those of the Old Oligarch).

(UPDATE: We've got NZ Bear taking the initiative on behalf of the blogosphere at his site, Truth Laid Bear. In addition, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin has some interesting thoughts on the aftermath of Katrina.)

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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Be Prepared

There's a lesson learned by every Boy Scout, if he learns anything at all, which is reflected in the motto: "Be Prepared." Someone once asked the Founder, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, for what should a Scout be prepared. His answer was, essentially -- anything.

From the day I moved out to be on my own, there has always been camping and survival equipment stored in my closet. I'll admit it's not all packed in one container, ready to grab as I fly out the door. But in an hour, I can be ready with enough to survive for two to three days all in one backpack; with first aid equipment, extra wool socks (which stay warm even when wet), extra briefs and can be rinsed and drip-dried for repeat wearing, non-perishable whole-grain food items for eating on the run, MREs (meals ready to eat, military issue), a hunting/survival knife, emergency rescue blanket, flashlight, batteries, a radio, a parka with extra survival goods packed in case the pack gets lost or stolen... did I leave anything out?

Oh, yeah, I'd bring my guitar along if possible. The traveling model.

(By the way, you know how to make matches waterproof? It's easy. You get those wooden stick kind that come in the big boxes, and paint them at the top end with clear nail polish. Keep them in a little waterproof container, or a little tin. That way, when you need them and even if they're all wet, just wipe them dry and strike on the appropriate surface. You're good to go.)

In addition to the usual roadside emergency stuff, I keep a couple of lengths of good, strong rope in my car. I also keep a woolen blanket in the back seat, and a couple of emergency survival blankets in the glove compartment.

I have never, EVER, lived on on a flood plain. You can't control Mother Nature. If enough rains falls, all the "flood control" efforts upstream won't stop the water from settling in the lowest place. And believe you me, water always finds the lowest place. And it stays there, till it decides to leave.

In New Orleans, the police looked the other way as looters walked off with groceries. But they failed to stem the onslaught of sub-human creatures who walked off with television sets, VCRs, cartloads of designer athletic shoes, and other luxury items. These neanderthals are the same ones who are gonna bitch about why the city takes so long to clean up after them.

It is said that one-fourth of the NO population is below the poverty line. Most of them live in the low-lying area of the city, which was hardest hit by the flooding. Perhaps the greatest shame of poverty is not the loss of material goods, but the loss of human dignity. The knowledge that others have what one does not, is enough to dampen the spirits of the weaker among us. In despair, they take what they can get, heedless of the cost to themselves or others, and to the devastation of the following day.

It is that devastation which is the result of their own lack of foresight. But is it not also the result of a culture that places value on the wrong things? What sort of example is set by those who have, for those who have not? Without question, those who do the looting cannot be excused. But might their stealing of luxury items be considered the lesson taught by those who prosper, and display as much to the point of excess? Is there an irony in the prospect that the latter may include some of those from whom the goods are looted?

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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Silent Heroes

The following is posted by Dom at Bettnet: "Meanwhile, the seminarians of St. Joseph Seminary in St Benedict, near New Orleans are alive and well and caring for 100 elderly and sick refugees. They’re running on generator power and there’s no flooding, but the roads are blocked and there’s no way in or out."

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Friday, September 2, 2005

Still Big, Ain't Gettin' Easier

It's been four days now, and relief is only beginning to reach New Orleans, and other cities in the region. Thousands of the area's poor, lacking the means to evacuate when told, are dead or dying. The account in today's edition of TCRNews reads like the morning after the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The Anchoress provides some very good commentary: "When the levees fell and hell was unleashed, those emergency folk who were in place were faced with a disaster that they’d simply never encountered before. No matter how “prepared” they might have been, they were not - could not be - prepared enough. Suddenly they were not dealing with a mere disaster, they had a true catastrophe on their hands..." There is much more here, and it's definitely good reading. I also recommend Michelle Malkin, who is staying on top of the story, and the response from within the blogosphere. Amy Welborn of Open Book provides various insights from others on the bigger picture. (Definitely worth a shot.)

And speaking of blogosphere, an inside account from an IT group stranded in NO is known as The Survival of New Orleans (formerly known as The Interdictor).

Jack was asking me "where the hell is FEMA, the all-powerful, government created agency that can assume absolute power in times of an emergency?" FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an independent Federal agency until being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security in March of 2003. Washington insiders will tell you that, conspiracy theories from The X-Files notwithstanding, FEMA has not always enjoyed a stellar reputation. Add to that the difficulty of reaching anyone while getting shot at. At least in Iraq you can shoot back at an enemy. Shooting at desparate civilians is another matter. If you read the sources listed above, you'll have some idea of the status of the response. Remember, this is the largest natural disaster in American history since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Meanwhile, I've got an evacuation of my own to prepare.

Tomorrow I commence seven days of frantic preparation. One week from today, I go to settlement on my new home. The following day, the moving van pulls up to the basement studio apartment I've rented for the last eleven years. That's the longest I've lived anywhere since moving to the DC area from Ohio nearly 25 years ago. For the five days that follow, I will be wrapping up the old, and setting up the new.

While I will attempt to maintain an active presence at this time, my entries will be minimal. I expect to be back up to full speed by the 15th.

On a final note...

As I close, I remember the Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans, and Bishop Muench of Baton Rouge. Both are staying with the poor in Baton Rouge, serving them as the true shepherds they are. (Thanks for the heads up, Dom.) Tonight, there's a zydeco dance across town in Maryland. Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners are scheduled to play. I hope they made it up from Louisiana in time. I've got a lot of musician friends down there, and I'll hear more about how they're doing by tonight.

Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

A Texas Tale

A tough old cowboy from Texas counseled his grandson that if he wanted to live a long life, the secret was to sprinkle a pinch of gunpowder on his oatmeal every morning.

The grandson did this religiously to the age of 103 when he died. He left behind 14 children, 30 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren, 25 great-great-grandchildren, and a 15-foot hole where the crematorium used to be.

Sorta brings a tear to your eye, don't it?

(Another knee-slapper from the desk of "D.W." -- DLA)

Undercurrents At Ground Zero

I've been looking all over for an explanation like this one ...

THE GROUND Zero mosque is being equated with that ideology. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for its creation.

... and finally found it.

Muslims have a constitutional right to build a house of worship in Manhattan (which is not the same thing as acceptance of Islam as a path to Objective Truth). But every locality has zoning boards which, among other things, ensure that other peoples' rights are not imposed upon. Is this endeavor too close for comfort? Are the rights of others at stake?

Does the Muslim community have the same aspiration for coexistence with their fellow Americans, that they wish their fellow Americans had for them? If so, is a concerted effort being made to inform the general public? If not, should they be surprised by a hostile reaction?


Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Men Who Would Be King

I did not attend either of the rallies in Washington yesterday. I suspect I'd feel more at home with the one near the Lincoln Memorial, at the “Restoring Honor” rally. Yes, Glenn Beck is capable of making somewhat of a spectacle of himself. But I suspect he's the first to admit it, thus rendering him quite humble about it. On the other hand, I could not say this about the Reverend Al Sharpton, the proof being in the charge that Beck is trying to hijack "the dream" as proclaimed in the speech at that Memorial on that day 37 years earlier. If we were to ask the niece of the late Dr Martin Luther King, namely Dr Alvada King, I know where we would be likely to find her.

I am speaking at the Glenn Beck Rally about faith, hope, love and honor. The NAACP and some other African Americans are saying that Alveda King is hijacking the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. I am saying that as Dr. King’s blood relative, I have a dream, it’s in my genes. How can I hijack myself?

I do not remember if it was George Washington Carver, or Booker T Washington, who warned of the danger that some civil rights leaders, their goals having been achieved, being more inclined to prolong the appearance of the struggle, for their own continued benefit. Were I to remember which one spoke this warning, I would quote them here. Were they still alive today, I do not doubt which event they would have attended.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To Morrow

I heard this song when I was about 30. I called the host of the show and asked where to find it. She referred me to the Folksong Archive at the Library of Congress. As there really is a town in Ohio called Morrow, and I grew up just south of there, I went to some trouble to go to the Library and seek it out. The recording they had was of some geezer who only knew the first verse. They could have told me that over the phone. My research came to a deliberate end.

I could have just waited for the Muppets, or until someone invented YouTube. I have also learned that The Kingston Trio once recorded it. All this for a village of less than thirteen hundred people, known as the home of this guy whose niece married my nephew a year ago. Thanks, guys.

(H/T to Paul Mitchell.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

FEBW: Smells Like Rockin’ Robin

Every now and then, when we really need it around here at Chez Alexandre, we like to end the workweek with a little something extra known as the Friday Evening Bonus Whimsy. In this case, my week started out bad and just got marginally better. Anyway, a "mashup" is the juxtposition of two seemingly unrelated musical selections. This little pick-me-up is from my Close Personal Friend “Weird Al” Yankovic. (Okay, okay, I follow him on Twitter. It's the same thing, right?) I'd love to know how someone managed to pull this one off.

FAMW: Llamas With Hats

Yeah, this is pretty twisted. But so is Mark Shea, and he'll be the first to admit it. (Nah, he'll be the second; his wife will be the first, but anyway ...) If an examination of the moral dilemma posed by these two critters is good enough for him, it's good enough for you. Besides, there's a lesson in this for all of us, that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Or something.

So it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

From Russia, With Color

From 1909 to 1912, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) took numerous color photographs of life in Central Russia, using a unique multi-plate method. The original plates were obtained by the Library of Congress, and a selection of them are viewed in Boston.com. Looking at these scenes, one must remember that both World War I and the Russian Revolution had yet to occur. History would soon wash away this serenity in short order, but this collection remains for us to admire, and remember.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mayhem in Manila: What Should Have Happened

We here at Chez Alexandre have been following with great interest, the recent story out of the Philippines, where a disgruntled ex-policemen took a bus full of passengers hostage, and the responding forces bungled the rescue operation. As the dead are residents of Hong Kong, which is part of China, the international blowback is enormous.

And, according to Charles Shoebridge, former counter-terrorism expert with the British Army and Scotland Yard, completely avoidable.

[T]he officers involved in Manila's bus siege showed great courage - but they were not properly trained or equipped for the task.

Here are 10 areas where, in his view, they could have done better ...


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Five Second Theatre: Death of a Salesdog

Time once again for our regular midday Wednesday feature.

I don't say he's a great dog. Ringo never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a canine being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old human. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such an animal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes (w/Transcript)

(Why? Because I could USE some inspiration, that's why!)

Will you fight? (No, we will run, and we will live.) Shame on you. This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're going to let it be the worst. And I guarantee a week won't go by in your life you won't regret walking out, letting them get the best of you. Well, I'm not going home. We've come too far! And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. A day may come when the courage of men fails ... but it is not THIS day. The line must be drawn HERE. This far, no further! I'm not saying it's going to be easy. You're going to work harder than you ever worked before. But that's fine, we'll just get tougher with it! If a person grits his teeth and shows real determination, failure is not an option. That's how winning is done! Believe me when I say we can break this army here, and win just one for the Gipper. But I say to you what every warrior has known since the beginning of time: you've got to get mad. I mean plum mad dog mean. If you would be free men, then you must fight to fulfill that promise! Let us cut out their living guts one inch at a time, and they will know what we can do! Let no man forget how menacing we are. We are lions! You're like a big bear, man! This is YOUR time! Seize the day, never surrender, victory or death... that's the Chicago Way! Who's with me? Clap! Clap! Don't let Tink die! Clap! Alright! Let's fly! And gentlemen in England now abed shall know my name is the Lord when I tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our Independence Day!

(Produced by Matthew Belinkie of Overthinkingit.com. H/T to Paul Mitchell.)

The Meaning of Life

It's been one of those days. In fact, one of those weeks. No, wait, one of those MONTHS! Enough to drive a man to wonder about ... well, you can see it here. My ex-new-age-girlfriend (it can happen!) sent me this, for no particular reason. Most of the advice is reasonable, although I'd rather pay tribute to the Creator than to His creation. Plus, I'm not ready to give up television, even though it's not on right now. Finally, I don't need to buy flowers; "Sal" has live orchids growing all over the house. (It must have happened while I was out of town.)

The illustrations and the captions are from the 2007 book "Be Happy: A Little Book to Help You Live a Happy Life" (2007) by Monica Sheehan. The music is "Cuore di Sabbia" (Sand Heart) by Pasquale Catalano, from the soundtrack of the 2010 movie "Mine Vaganti" (Loose Cannons) directed by Ferzan Ozpetek.

Thanks, Kirstie You're still a pal.

Sounds Overheard

The first time I got excited about a band from Canada, I was on the road in Ohio.

It was in the days before cell phones were common (mid-1990s), so I had to pull into a convenience store, call the station from a pay phone, and get the name. Paul and I eventually became cult followers of the Toronto-based Moxy Früvous, who even gave Paul his own stage name, the first of many. (He earned it. Long story.)

The last time I got excited about a band from Canada, things got easier.

It was last Saturday, and I was filling the tank, and simply wrote down what appeared to be the title of the song that was playing on the speakers. A search on Google turned up the British Columbia-based quintet known as Jets Overhead, and the song on the first clip.

Our band lives on a massive island that is pigment green with sharp grey mountains moving slowly and peninsula fingers stretching out and snagging the sea. The people in the band are all different heights and all have very different tastes in music and very different ways of expressing emotion or thinking about art.

We started making noises in a concrete basement on the wrong side of the railroad ...

... and the rest is history.

Yeah, they've got that Americana thing going on. I can live with that. So can you. Listen to the second clip, which is the title track from the latest album, eh?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Full Sturgeon Moon

Some Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon. Others called it the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon. (From The Old Farmer's Almanac. H/T to Katarzyna Mietek.)

W C Fields, Call Your Office!

William Claude Dukenfield (his real name, FWIW) would not have approved, having wished his gravestone to be inscribed thus:

On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.

It seems that "The City of Brotherly Love" was a tough town for vaudeville artists back in the day, such that artists of that genre would have rather been dead than perform there. But now, it just got harder for home-based businesses, including those which make next to nothing. Damn near nothing, in fact.

For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she's made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it's a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut.

In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.

"The real kick in the pants is that I don't even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous," Bess says.

Matthew Archbold operates from the outskirts of Philadelphia. He's not talking, but his brother Patrick is.

So you now need a business license to have an online diary. This is outrageous! Do these people even understand what it takes in revenue to even break even on a blog?

Is it improper for a government to require business licenses for actual businesses, even if they are blogs? No. But this is the typical heavy handed approach ...

I can vouch for that. About ten years ago, I was among a few writers who attempted to start up a non-profit quarterly journal of Catholic opinion. We were going to need a bank account for subscriptions. It was the bank that let the hammer down on me, insisting I have a license with the county before I could open the account in the journal's name. Then, of course, the Commonwealth of Virginia had to get into the act. After a year, we ended up folding, and I personally lost several hundred dollars. The others involved fared better, those self-righteous little punk-ass twits being more adept at disappearing than yours truly.

(Did I mention this was non-profit?)

At a time when every other Joe is out waving the Gadsden Flag, a good place to start having an impact is at the local level. If a city councilman insists on supporting capricious and arbitrary laws, throw the bum out! Quit acting like you can't do anything about it. You don't need to be a full-time community organizer (an otherwise lucrative career path these days) to effect this sort of change. All you have to be is someone who votes, and can talk to others to vote.

You can pencil that in between taking kids to soccer games and playing the ponies, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Tropical Depression Hits Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston says that a father isn't necessary to raise a child. After all, once you have a nanny, a personal trainer, and a vibr ... uh, never mind, who needs a man? The Miami Herald has just reported on the repercussions, as a tropical storm gained strength yesterday in the Gulf of Mexico, and has been designated with the name of Danielle. We have a quote from the eye of that storm:

Who needs a dad? Every child does. Even unbiased studies and statistics say so. Boys raised without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail. Girls raised without fathers are eight times more likely to wind up pregnant as teens. The childhood rates of depression, suicide, drug use, and sexually promiscuity all rise when a father is not present in the home.

I just hope the storm doesn't reach Washington. She sounds pretty scary.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Laura Curtis Explains It All For You

It hasn't been easy in The Big Easy. Not lately, anyway. And with the impending anniversary of the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina, an occupant of the "Green Room" at HotAir.com examines the heartache of late, in the Bayou State.

If [the President's] past behavior is any guide, he’ll dance on George Bush’s political grave, take credit for things he did not accomplish, and fail to blame the group most responsible for the flooding damage: the Army Corps of Engineers.

Yours truly is loathe to put all the blame on the President's vacation schedule, although it certainly hasn't facilitated pubic confidence. One thing to remember (and we cannot expect Kanye West to have a grasp of the bare essentials of public civility, never mind the machinations of public policy), it is likely that funding towards such an urgent project has been diverted for many years, even predating the latter-day Bush administration. This sort of shenanigans is not unique to this situation. Funding for desperately needed projects is often sidetracked, in favor of "sexier" endeavors. The price is paid in the end, often at a much greater cost.

With your money.

My String Band Scrapbook

Surfing the web, is like browsing through a library, whether it is one's own collection, or someone else's. At least I have always found it so. I stumble on to something, and the next thing you know, I'm having flashbacks.

Dennis Buck is a harmonica-and-guitar slinging jug band and blues man on Saturday night, and an Orthodox priest on Sunday morning. We knew each other back in our coffeehouse days in Cincinnati. We lost touch when he left for the seminary, and found one another again in the early 80s, when he was made pastor of a little church in Hagerstown, Maryland. We lost touch once again, and managed a reunion of sorts at the Washington Folk Festival earlier this year, with his band Snakehead Run.

He posted this video on his Facebook page recently, and I was reminded of three men who were the last of their kind: Carl Martin, Ted Bogan, and Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, known collectively as Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, at one time the last of the African-American old-time country blues string bands on God's green earth. I don't know if or when Bogan left us, but Martin died in 1979, and Armstrong met his Maker in 2003. I used to see them when they passed through Cincinnati. They were probably best known for their rendition of Gershwin's "Lady Be Good." I used to wish I could play that swing guitar like ... was it Martin or Bogan?

The tradition of the Negro country string band continues with a new generation, in the form of the Carolina Chocolate Drops from (where else?) Durham, North Carolina. Not quite as "bright-lights-big-city" as their aforementioned predecessors, they have nevertheless gained a steady cult following in the Piedmont region of the Carolinas and beyond. The prospect of encouraging certain ethnic stereotypes -- the shuffling, hambone, minstrel-style of performance art -- does not seem to phase them, perhaps being free of the baggage that once accompanied it.

Cornbread and butter beans and you across the table,
Eating beans and making love as long as I am able,
Hoeing corn and cotton, too, and when the day is over,
Ride a mule, a crazy fool, and love again all over.

I wonder what else I might find today ...

Friday, August 20, 2010

FAMW: Game On

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&from=sp&fg=shareEmbed&vid=8cb424dc-cbdb-40be-90c5-8fb450462d2f" target="_new" title="Season 4 - Music Video - "Game On"">Video: Season 4 - Music Video - "Game On"</a>The Guild is a web-based adventure-comedy-drama series about a group of gamers (people who play video games, go figure). It has an audience of over 65 million viewers. This music video, from the fourth season of the series, is entitled “Game On.” In this episode, Zaboo convinces Codex to resume game play by transporting them both to a warmed-over Bollywood fantasy world, the dream of every gaming geek over the age of 25 who still lives in his parents' basement. Obviously, you will want to sing along, so the lyrics can be found here.

This edition of the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy is dedicated to Paul “game designer, competitive air guitarist, boy of the night” Alexander, who is continuing his studies in Interactive Media and Game Development at the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design. I just couldn't wait for his birthday.

I mean, this is a feeling you can’t outsource, right?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Inconvenient Voice

We often read of marriages with large families, and by that I don't mean three or four children, but enough to fill a passenger van, or a small bus. We can see the challenges they face, of course, but the popular depictions see those challenges invariably overcome. “Bairns are a blessin’” is the ancient Gaelic adage, and the Old Testament bears witness to the fruitfulness of such a union of hearts and minds.

What happens to the woman who was born with brains and a potential to be anything yet desired only to be procreative and familial? A woman who felt her place in life was to grow a generation of God-fearing children, despite her own upbringing and wishes of her parents.

But the ways of God are a mystery, and we see so little from our skewed vantage point. We are confounded when everything falls apart. And this writer would submit to an irony, one indicated earlier today, that from a state which served as the backdrop for such adventures in pretense as The Stepford Wives, would come the tale of a struggle to reach beyond the din.

Kristin Luscia Bothur is the mother of eleven children. She has a BS in English and Social Science from Eastern Connecticut State University, and is currently pursuing a Master's in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She has been a homeschooling mother for fifteen years, as long as she has been a practicing Catholic. Several years ago, her husband left her for another woman, and her life as she knew it was changed forever.

What happens to this woman who delighted in channeling all of her efforts into producing and molding many young minds to love Jesus and Mary and also Latin and Literature? What happens to this woman who did all of this homemaking despite her husband’s moods and faults, through good times and bad, and then found herself alone?

I am this woman ...

Her dramatic narrative has recently been published. 11 On My Own tells of a young girl with a restless heart, in search of its true home. It is not an easy read. Some will be shaken by the personal angst, the melodrama which is easily dismissed as tawdry. Some may even find it unsuitable fare for "Catholic reading." Those who view the world with rose-colored glasses, all the while wrapping it in the mantle of orthodoxy, are only deluding themselves. The ways of the saints (and saints in the making, as all of us should be) are those of suffering, of bearing the cross, on the path to the merited crown. Kristin's is an inconvenient voice, but one that is necessary, one that speaks for reluctant single mothers who stand alone.

When I first learned of this woman's story last month, in response to a piece entitled “20 Years After: Divorce and the Culture of Death”, a correspondence began, followed by several phone conversations. I finally had the privilege of meeting Kristin two weeks ago, at the annual Catholic Writers' Conference in King of Prussia, PA. We spoke for several hours. A more complete review of her work is forthcoming, but I have read it twice now, and there is so much more to discover, as least for me. One is left in awe of what this woman has struggled to overcome.

Nor am I alone in this discovery. The upcoming issue of Faith & Family will feature a piece on her remarkable life. The first clip at above is an interview from last spring on AirMaria. There is yet another, to be featured tomorrow on the Catholic TV program “This Is The Day.” It will be broadcast at 10:30 am Eastern USA time, rebroadcast at 7:30 pm, and again throughout the week. A link to the webcast is also available by clicking on the show's title above.

The story continues to unfold, as she is also the author of a blog that bears the same name as the book: 11 On My Own.

UPDATE1: The aforementioned interview will also be re-broadcast on Saturday at 3:30 am and 6:00 pm, Sunday at 6:60 pm, and Monday at 12:30 am.

UPDATE2: The second video clip has been updated to show the featured episode, so you can watch it anytime you want (starting at 15:21, and ending at 24:28). Over and over again. That's how we roll here at mwbh.

Guitar Workshop: Excalibur

Every guitarist worthy of his chops has his personal Holy Grail, the instrument he ultimately dreams of owning. This writer has two.

My acoustic dream guitar is a high-end Martin Dreadnaught Cutaway Herringbone with electronics, or its equivalent by J W Gallagher and Company, a luthier in Tennessee (best known for Doc Watson's guitars). Better still, if I'm lucky, I'll be able to travel to the Philippines one day, and custom-order one from the finest maker in that country, whoever that is. Filipinos are renowned for their craftsmanship, and they're much less expensive.

I want the back and sides to be made of Brazilian rosewood, not Indian. Most high-end axes use Indian these days, but Brazilian gets a much fatter sound, even as it is much harder to get due to import restrictions (which may not be a problem over there).

My electric dream guitar is a late '50s Fender Telecaster, the perennial favorite of rockabilly artists everywhere. I'd prefer a sunburst color, and moderate to mint condition. (And if it needs re-fretting, I'm not just handing it to anybody.)

For now, I have in my repository a modest collection of antiques, including a 1947 (or is it 1948?) Orpheum archtop acoustic, black with white pearl ornament, which I got for a song at a yard sale. I intend to have it immaculately restored, and hand it down the next generation of Alexander guitar players (and he knows who he is, if he ever gets busy with it).

“I’d raise the bridge, file down the nut, and take the buzz out from low E.” Now there's a girl who knows just how to sweet-talk a man. What is it about Tia Carrere, or a 1964 Fender Stratocaster, that drives men to distraction? The short answer for the former may be found in the second clip, but the long answer for the latter, a more detailed analysis, is featured in the third clip.

Party on, Wayne.

Quin Transtulit Sustinet

One might never guess what has preoccupied me of late.

I was reading about Ira Levin's 1972 thriller The Stepford Wives, as well as the 1975 film of the same name, and the 2004 remake. I've been doing a great deal of light reading this summer, including correspondence from a variety of sources. I'm wondering if there isn't a bit of irony, in that the book and the movies all take place in a town situated in Connecticut. Is there something about "The Constitution State" that lends itself to an obsession over appearances? But more important than that, don't I have anything better to do?

UPDATE: I know what you may be asking: “Hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, what's this fuss all of a sudden about Connecticut?” Ah, my little minions, there is indeed a method to the madness. And tonight, the truth shall be revealed. Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Five Second Theatre: Chessmaster

Time once again for our regular midday Wednesday feature. On the night of May 13, 1997, a security guard heard a moaning coming out of the recesses of IBM laboratories. It was Deep Blue. It was crying. Someone, they reasoned, had to have come in and played it when no one was monitoring the cameras. And whoever that someone was, they were cruel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Matthew’s Lament Revisited

One year ago today, we commented on the state of the Catholic blogosphere, as seen from one corner of it.

Creative Minority Report ... may be one of the best things to happen to the Catholic blogosphere in recent years. The brainchild of two brothers, Matthew and Patrick Archbold, joined by an architect identified only as "D Mac," CMR broke significant ground when bloggers with no prior credentials in the Catholic media, not only published a weblog, but did it (and continue to do it) well enough to gain a sizable audience ... The mainstream Catholic press still doesn't give them their due ...

Shortly thereafter, a cry to Heaven may have been answered, as the brothers Archbold shortly thereafter became regular staff bloggers for NCRegister.com, owned by parent company Circle Media. We see now that the Catholic print media is no longer content to use the weblog medium simply as an adjunct to their print enterprise, but as a primary medium in its own right. This is even more evident in its sister publication, Faith & Family, featuring a complete lineup of "mommy bloggers."

(Hey, that's what they call them.)

At a time when printing and mailing costs are rising, and the economy is not, a dedicated web presence -- including web-exclusive subscriptions -- is the wave of the future, and the future is already here. We've seen a lot of new developments in this arena in the past year, and the next year should see many more.

Fortunately, this writer isn't going anywhere -- yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010


In the novel Brideshead Revisited, young Sebastian Flyte was accompanied to university by his teddy bear "Aloysius." This was considered rather odd. Not so, according to the Daily Mail, where it has been cited as an effective stress reliever ...

More than a third of us still hug a childhood soft toy while falling asleep, according to a survey of 6,000 British adults ... More than half of Britons still have a teddy bear from childhood and the average teddy bear is 27 years old."

... such that even Prince Charles takes his Teddy along with him when he travels.

I had a brown teddy bear and a black-and-white panda bear, both of which were quite dear to me as a pre-schooler. They were not quite as dear to my mother, however, who kept complaining about "those dumb animals." One day, they simply disappeared, and no one knew where they went. I have my suspicions, though. Closer to the present, I have for safe-keeping, the wind-up Paddington Bear that belonged to Paul. When he has my first grandchild, Paul and Paddington will be reunited.

Now, let's all march around the living room to Frank DeVol and his Orchestra, on the original 1949 Capitol 78rpm recording (CAS 3083), with music composed by John W Bratton and lyrics penned by Jimmy Kennedy. And when that's done, let's learn to play it on the ukulele.

Party on, Teddy.

“When I was a kid ...”

“... I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me instead.”

-- Emo Philips

Big Bang Big Boom

It's a Monday morning, and it's coming up on time for the Angelus, I just got back from the doctor (don't ask!), and on top of all that, did I mention it's a Monday morning? Calling in sick is a great way to start off a (perfectly lousy) week. So is this unscientific view of the creation of the universe, from those wall-painting animators at BLU.

You will believe.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Almighty, everlasting God, who by Thy Word hast created out of nothing heaven, earth, sea, visible and invisible things; who hast commanded the earth to bring forth herbs and trees for the use of men and animals and for them to have fruit each according to its kind; and who hast granted out of Thine unspeakable mercy for these to serve not only as food for the living, but as medicine for sick bodies: with mind and mouth we humbly implore Thee to bless with Thy clemency these herbs and fruits of various kinds, and to pour forth upon their natural power already given by Thee the grace of Thy new blessing; that when used by men and beasts who apply them in Thy name, they may provide protection against all disease and adversity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God unto endless ages ...

From a translation of the Rituale Romanum. Visit fisheaters.com for the complete text of the blessing of herbs and fruits.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Raised Right (But Not In Arizona)

In the years following the American War Between The States*, many Northern businessmen moved to the South, seeking either opportunity or exploitation, depending on whom you ask. They were identified by the carpetbags in which they carried their belongings. In the present day, the term “carpetbagger” has come to refer to one who moves to a state where he has little or no origins, to fulfill the minimum residency requirements, so as to run for political office.

Ben Quayle, son of the former Vice President Dan Quayle, is like a lot of young choirboy faces among conservative candidates lately, believing that talking a good game is going to make up for a history of extremely poor judgment, and being essentially an outsider to the state he would purport to represent. Ben initially denied, but later admitted to posting comments on a website devoted to Arizona's nightlife.

You would think that this chump would get an education fairly early in life, that aspirations to a political career do not always survive the stupid things we do in our youth.

Yes, liberal candidates get away with bad moral conduct and ethical malfeasance, continuing to be re-elected even as they are found out. To be a liberal, by its definition, is to be "liberated" from norms of behavior and principle, as opposed to being a conservative, one who by definition is dedicated to "conserving" them. Beyond the character assassinations, beyond even the issues, is the issue of character itself, to say nothing of possession of common sense. Run a true local candidate who is exactly who he or she pretends to be, and he or she will be unstoppable.

Or you can look for the next pretty face, in which case you may have just found him.

How's that worked out so far, by the way?

UPDATE: Well, at least he made up a list.

* Our official reference here at mwbh for what most people call the "Civil War," which was not really a civil war in the strict sense, as it did not involve two claimants to the same seat of power, but rather, part of a nation attempting to secede from said power.

Crazy Time Revisited

Sometimes I get a comment worthy of more attention than usual. In fact, that I get ANY comment is worthy of more attention than usual. Whatever. Here it is.

+    +    +

As the author of Ex-wife to Exceptional Life and a psychotherapist in practice for 25+ years, I would like to comment on why my book is specifically for women. While it is absolutely true that men suffer as much as women through and after the process, the experience is different for women in the following three ways- Economically women still suffer more from divorce than men do. Secondly, women still maintain the majority of the responsibility for ongoing day to day rigors of child-rearing and lastly, if there is domestic violence, it is more likely to be directed toward the women. Of course, there are exceptions to the above, but these issues make divorce a uniquely different experience for each gender. Certainly, men deal with the financial and parental changes as well.

Writng from the women's perspective does not diminish men's pain. Indeed I encourage women to "take the High Road", maintain paternal involvement and develop respectful discourse.

Abigal Trafford's book is a classic in the field and I would also recommend Rebuilding: When your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher. Both address the needs from the perspective of both parties.

Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC

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Just so we're clear, the point of my earlier piece was not that a book written about divorce is aimed toward women, but that nearly ALL of them are. Inasmuch as roughly half the parties involved in a divorce are men ...

Now, then, it's Saturday, and I'm headed to the race track.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bonus Whimsy: “Brindisi” of La Traviata

I got this from Father Z of WDTPRS, who got it from Father Finigan of The Hermeneutic of Continuity. It seems that the huddled masses of the Catholic blogosphere have discovered the "flash mob" phenomenon, more than a year after seeing it in this little corner thereof. At first, I thought it was a few random goombas moved by the piped-in muzak to reminisce about the old neighborhood. That was before some of the ladies joined in. It seems the Opera Company of Philadelphia found an imaginative way to use a little Verdi to promote themselves.

Opera. I should try that sometime.

Steven Slater: Taiwanese Animation Remix

The reports are coming in, that this guy probably embellished his story just a bit, but the investigation continues in earnest. When it's all over, Slater probably won't get a reality show (although we could be wrong), unless it's on the Bravo cable channel, in which case he'll host some snooze-fest that will tank after one season. (Mild content advisory. Very mild.)

FAMW: Glee Flash Mob at Brighton & Hove Pride 2010

We just love our flash mob dancing here at mwbh.

In this instance, a community flash mob at Brighton & Hove Pride (in the UK, one would presume) last Saturday, in three different locations - Jubilee Library, Marlborough Place and Preston Park. We're not sure why this has to be associated with a "pride" thing, nor could we tell that any of the participants had any serious gender issues. We just like the music, and we just wanna dance. It's just how we roll every week, for our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Dom Bettinelli Explains It All For ... The Ladies

I haven't read Dom's work at Bettnet.com for some time. When he started working for the Church, he had to refrain from speaking freely on certain matters, which was a loss to the Catholic blogosphere. For awhile, his writings seemed rather tepid (if only by comparison). But when God closes a door, yada, yada, yada, and what I stumbled upon tonight proved to me just how much I have underestimated the man.

He is explaining to single women everywhere, why guys are the way they are:

So “why do guys do that?”, meaning whatever action is driving the object of his affections away. Well, I’m here to tell you ladies, that we do it because you told us to ...

You totally need to read this, girls, because frankly, I'm getting tired of all your whining, the whole damn bunch of you. Compared to you, men are not terribly complex creatures, at least not in the same way. Nor are we as intuitive. As a rule, we do not know what you don't tell us. And we are never at our best when fielding mixed signals, and most of you send them out as easily as you breathe.

(Every married man reading this is nodding his head right now, if his wife isn't looking.)

So guys, how do you counter this? In a social situation, when greeting someone of the opposite gender with, say, the "Latin kiss" (common even among younger Latinos), or however things are done in your neck of the woods, a gentleman should wait for the lady to make the overture, as in polite society -- I don't give a rat's patootie how liberated they are -- women generally set the boundaries. Same goes for kissing goodnight.

Don't expect to meet a nice Catholic girl in a bar. Not that you won't, but it depends on the bar, and even then it's a long shot. (If there's dancing, and I mean REAL dancing where you actually have a partner and there is skill involved, most guys don't know how. If you do, you're halfway there, champ!)

There is a distinct advantage in waiting for the Church to determine anyone's freedom to remarry through a petition for annulment. For men, it means not having to deal with recently divorced women, who are generally fickle in their actions, to say nothing of their affections. This is the natural consequence of such a life-shattering experience, and it makes them both vulnerable and dangerous. It's that "crazy time" thing we were talking about before.

Dom, I know it's been a while, but you're still The Man.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Abigail Trafford Explains It All For You

In this, another piece devoted to issues of divorce, our subject is the quintessential self-help guide for this life-shattering event, written by a DC-based author, journalist and lecturer by the name of Abigail Trafford. Her work was mentioned last December, in a piece entitled "Christmas 1990":

... [T]here are stages which one endures. The best book to describe them is Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, by Abigail Trafford. Most other books of this variety are written for women ("Leaving Him Behind", "He's History, You're Not", "From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life", "Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up", "Not Your Mother's Divorce", "A Woman's Guide to Healing the Heartbreak", "I Used To Miss Him, But My Aim Is Improving", I could go on ...). Maybe they think men are just supposed to go out and get drunk or hang out at the race track for several weeks.

... and this is the real tragedy, the assumption that divorce only hurts women. I have seen big, grown men cry like little girls, after crossing several state lines to visit their children, only to find that the mother has changed her mind. They don't always get the court's permission to pull a stunt like that.

Get in line, ladies. Divorce hurts EVERYBODY, and the only real winners are the lawyers.

I've told my own tale often enough at this site, so I'll spare you for now. Back then, after experiencing the exercise in malpractice that was the "separated and divorced ministry" of the Diocese of Arlington, I discovered this book. It was then that I realized that I would be on a mission from God. And so, in the space of twenty years, I have passed out nearly twenty copies of it. Trafford interviewed hundreds of divorcees, and details numerous examples throughout her book, crafting a defined set of emotional phases of the process, which can assist the reader in making right choices at said phases.

One caveat is worth nothing. Trafford does treat issues of sex in relationships as if indulging them without the benefit of marriage is a necessary rite of passage. Those who have had this experience can tell you there is little to show for it except a trail of broken or hardened hearts (including one's own), and this area of the book should be treated with caution. One ultimately becomes aware during the course of reading, having been out of the "dating game" for some time while married, of the precise nature of near occasions of sin, thus it may serve as a worthwhile component of spiritual direction, given the benefit of a good priest-confessor. Some might disagree with my approach to this issue, but I'm certainly not endorsing the behavior.

Besides, maybe one of you geniuses has come up with something better.

Nah, didn't think so.

Come (Sit Down, Shut Up, and) Fly With Me

By now, most of us have read about Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who recently snapped after one rude passenger too many, got on the microphone and opened up his mind to the rest of them, and took the emergency chute out the door, straight into the arms of fifteen-minutes of fame. That, and he was arrested. What may have cost him his job made him a hero to others of the trade, including Bobby Laurie*, who expounds on their sentiments for The Daily Beast:

I remember landing in Key West, Florida [when] we deplaned, cleaned the cabin (that’s right, sometimes we’re the cleaners, too) and started to re-board the aircraft. I was working in the front, and the captain called me into the flight deck. Apparently there was a problem with our brakes and it wasn’t safe for us to fly the aircraft until it was fixed. I got to break the news to the full flight. People began screaming at me instantly. One passenger yelled at me that he had a meeting to get to. I would have liked to snap back, “Would you like to get there alive?” But I just smiled and said sweetly, “I’m so sorry. Hopefully they can fix this fast.”

What is missing from these stories, and others like them, is not how rude customers can be. Anyone in a service-related business can identify with that scenario, including those who stay on the ground. But both Time and Newsweek had cover stories on the discourtesy of the airline industry in the summer of 2001. Then came 9-11, and with it, the get-out-of-jail-free card to treat every passenger as a mass murderer just waiting for a reason. Imagine a complete stranger, with a very broad definition of "probable cause," having the license to go through your personal belongings, including those items you would just as soon most people not see (which is why we used to call them "unmentionables"), without ever being allowed to intervene. Those on the receiving end are made to feel like Jews trying to get out of Austria in 1938. What if the official breaks something? Do you really think his supervisor is going to be quick with an apology and an offer to compensate? You know better. So do they.

In the summer of 2003, I drove to the airport the day before leaving, and showed my portable guitar to the check-in desk, to confirm that I could indeed take it on the plane and store it in the overhead compartment. Think I was going to take chances with those crazy baboons in the luggage department? No sir! Seven years later, with even tougher restrictions, I'm not so sure that would be enough of a precaution. But I haven't flown since, and I avoid it whenever possible.

This is a message to flight attendants everywhere: Slater is not a hero. He's just another guy who got pissed off at his job serving customers, only with the luxury of doing it colorfully. You have people with loaded guns and the Patriot Act on your side. Your passengers have a destination, and have already spent two or more hours trying to get there, without ever leaving. They are running intolerably late, and are completely at your mercy. Some of them may act like jerks, and they really shouldn't, but they've already met even bigger ones by the time they get to you.

Now, where are my damn peanuts?

UPDATE: Allahpundit of HotAir.com offers his usual stunning analysis, as well as what may be the rest of the story. Click here, and let the snark-fest begin.

* Author of a blog entitled "Up Up & A Gay." It always has to be about that, huh, guys?