Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ben Stein Explains It All ... Sort Of

Don't get me wrong, I love Ben Stein. I think he's one of the brightest and most engaging of the talking heads in America today. But his alternative to the "Tea Party" proposal, which he suggests should bring them "back to planet earth" in the end, sounds sensible enough, but still has me scratching my head. It's getting a mixed review from our pal Ed Morrissey as well.

If my credit card debt is about 60 or 70 percent of the limit most of the time, and rarely if ever less than half, never mind down to zero, I'm not in a great position to expect either a higher credit limit or lower interest rates, am I? You can say all you like that comparing my wallet to the United States Treasury is like comparing apples to oranges, but I'll bet dollars to donuts that most Americans will see it the same way, whether there's a Gadsden flag hanging on their front porch or not.

These people seem to forget that these "Tea Party freshman" were elected on a promise: no more taxes, no more deficit, no more debt. Thus they arrived at the supposedly unrealistic "cut, cap, and balance." If these young bucks break their promise in the next couple of days, they won't make it through the next primary back home, no matter how big a share of the pork barrel buffet they bring back home. That's why I think both Ben Stein and Pat Buchanan should both end up going on the stump for the would-be Mister Smiths who cave at the eleventh hour. Let these two explain to the constituents why these poor guys just couldn't help themselves.

How 'bout it, fellas? “Go, Pat, Go!”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Noonan: “They’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”

According to former Reagan speechwriter and syndicated columnist Peggy Noonan, any devotion to President Obama, even by his most ardent supporters, is lukewarm at best.

The past few weeks I've asked Democrats who supported him how they feel about him. I got back nothing that showed personal investment. Here are the words of a hard-line progressive and wise veteran of the political wars: "I never loved Barack Obama. That said, among my crowd who did 'love' him, I can't think of anyone who still does." Why is Mr. Obama different from Messrs. Clinton and Bush? ... "Maybe the most important word that described Clinton and Bush but not Obama is 'genuine.'" He "doesn't exude any feeling that what he says and does is genuine."

He sure had most Americans falling for it, though, didn't he?

Her statement that "nobody loves Obama" is a bit over the top, even in the sense that she uses the term. He can still draw an enthusiastic crowd both here and abroad, and he still has most of Hollywood and the mainstream media in his pocket (although the latter has wavered somewhat in the past year). Why do these two segments matter? Because they are the ones who influence the voters more than anyone else. Americans don't invest much time in examining the issues, or researching the candidates themselves. They are likely when interviewed on the street by the evening news, to spout the same inane platitudes as their favorite movie stars.

We get the leaders we ask for, and we deserve them. It was just as true in 2008 as it will be in 2012. The "love" to which Noonan refers is not a choice, never mind a virtue, but a feeling, more akin to a schoolgirl crush. It will break hearts just as easily.

Friday, July 29, 2011

1 Peter 5: 8-9

There will be no Whimsy today. I am asking for the prayers of my readership, for a special intention. To believe in the reality of the Evil One, and his presence in the world, is to accept the prospect that, at any one time, he will target you for his own nefarious purposes. I am convinced he is targeting me; through my job, in my home, and in the midst of those dear to me. It has been building for a while now, but has lately reached the point beyond human hope.

“Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

My weapons include the Psalms, the prayer book written by my namesake, and handed down as the official prayer of Mother Church. One of my favorites is the one used by General George Patton, as seen in the 1970 movie bearing his name which starred George C Scott.

O GOD, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

When I remember thee upon my bed and meditate on thee in the night watches.

Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.

They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.

But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.
-- Psalm 62(63)

I have a rosary with me at all times. I pray it more often these days. I also have all the advice I need. What I need, dear reader, is your prayers. A decade of the rosary. An Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. Whatever you can squeeze in five minutes.


Smackdown at “The Right Scoop”

ahaha.gifIn the heat of an argument on Fox News' Hannity last night, one panelist struck the other one on the arm.

That is the beauty of Kabuki theater. You dress a marxist up in a Donkey suit, a progressive up in an Elephant suit, the audience cheers on their favorite animal, and no one pays attention to what is going on behind the curtain.

He should really bring back Alan Colmes to help break up such fisticuffs. Click here. Watch the video. Nice, huh?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life in a Day

Imagine a call sent out to the world. You are to employ the medium of video to chronicle a single day on Earth -- the 24th of July, 2010 -- from wherever you are. You answer the call, and are one of over 80,000 submissions and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. Producer Ridley Scott was joined by Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald, in the compilation of this raw material. The result is a feature-length documentary called Life in a Day. National Geographic and YouTube came together to bring it to the big screen.

Sneak previews began this past July 24, one year to the day after the shooting of the original footage. The big release starts tomorrow. In Washington DC, you can catch it tomorrow night at the West End Cinema. For other locations, go to their Facebook page.

I sure hope it comes out in DVD.

+Pietro Sambi (1938-2011)

It was reported last night, that the Most Reverend Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio (Ambassador of the Holy See) to the United States, passed into eternity, from complications due to lung surgery. He was 73 years old. This writer has been getting inquiries about the arrangements. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of thhe Immaculate Conception, on Saturday, August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, at 2:00 pm. More details and tributes at Whispers in the Loggia can be found here, here, and here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Jimpressions

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Mark Shea has been taking quite a licking over at Creative Minority Report in the last week, so I stole this from his blog while he was distracted. In this clip, Jim Meskimen performs Clarence's speech from William Shakespeare's Richard III as a number of different celebrities, from George Clooney to Droopy Dog (???). If you live on the West Coast, you can see him LIVE at The Acting Center doing his JIMPRESSIONS show on July 29 & 30th at 8 pm. For tickets and info, click here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I’m (sorta) lovin’ it ...

We hear a lot about the nationwide obesity problem, with children not getting enough healthy food in their diets, not exercising enough, sitting around playing video games too much. Obviously you mommies and daddies out there are too busy scratching your way up the corporate ladder to notice what the hell your own kids are up to. Little Johnny could be the biggest crystal meth dealer on the block for all you know. In fact, I'll bet he's cooking up the next batch right now, in that chemistry lab you built for him in the basement. (Hey why not? I had a chem lab in the basement when I was a kid, right?)

But not to worry. First Lady Michelle Obama knows what's good for them, and she's on the case. Or at least Ronald MacDonald's case. And now comes the other shoe:

McDonald's on Tuesday said that it would add apple slices and reduce the portion of French fries in its children's meal boxes beginning this fall, effectively taking away consumers' current choice between either having apples with caramel dip or fries as a Happy Meal side.

The move by McDonald's, which has become a leader in moving from just burgers and fries to more nutritious fare like oatmeal and salads, comes as fast food chains face intense scrutiny from health officials ...

It doesn't bother me personally. I've had to cut down on fried foods anyway, which is one reason I went from weighing 230 pounds this time last year, to 205 as I weighed in this morning. Most of that is in the last few months. I just took my "thinner" clothes out of mothballs, and am getting ready to excess the "fat clothes" for good. I'm about halfway to my goal, which I expect to reach by year's end, in time for ... well, that can wait. Meanwhile, the pressure from government and various "public service" organizations to do all this, brought up a quotation at the combox for, this one from C S Lewis.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The good news is, they refuse to get rid of the toys. At least something is still sacred in America.

Mikey Bustos: Filipino Receiving Compliments Tutorial

Okay, we're back. The caption for the latest Mikey Bustos Filipino Tutorial reads thus: “Everyone loves to receive compliments in life! The Filipino is a unique and complex being, however, in the manner in which we receive compliments, so unique in fact, that we had to create a tutorial exploring the multi-dimensional reactions to compliments given to a Filipino.”

With Asian cultures in general, Filipinos being no exception, there is great emphasis on saving face, or otherwise what is known as the “pakitang tao” which means putting on a good one. This combined with a sense of ethnic fellowship -- the “kababayan” or fellow-countryman -- might explain this video. But Sal and I couldn't quite figure it out. In fact, Sal had never heard one of the expressions in the middle of the clip, which escapes me at the moment. I thought it might be from any one of the 170 regional languages still spoken throughout the Philippines besides the universal Filipino (essentially a modern form of Tagalog, with English and Spanish vocabulary).

But what the hell do I know?

Gotta tell ya, though, Mikey is right on the money about Manuel Pacquiao. Sal never watched a boxing match in her life until the Pacman brought honor and glory to his country (not to mention his generosity to the poor in his home region). So, how about it, kabayans? Got any insights to add to this? We'd love to hear from you, ano?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Her powerful contralto gave a voice to her eclectic blend of jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues. But in the end, it was not enough to save her. Recording artist Amy Jade Winehouse died earlier today, less then two months shy of her twenty-eighth birthday. As this is written, police have reported the cause of death to be "unexplained," but she has been known to have struggled with substance abuse and emotional illness. In a 2009 article in People magazine, her own father confessed that she had been "close to death" at least twice by that time.

May the Lord have mercy on her, and may she rest in peace.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BREAKING: Boehner says he is “convinced” US will not default on debt.

This just came in tonight. The temperature is rising this weekend in the Nation's capital. The weather's pretty hot too. This will not be up long, at least for the next 24 hours. Call your congressman. Call your senators. Tell them what I told MY senators; don't worry about which party gets credit; do the right thing!

Click here to watch the clip and read commentary from The Right Scoop. Otherwise, stay tuned ...

Obligatory “Quit Blaming George Bush Already!” Post

[The following is provided courtesy of ProLifeNews. I'm reprinting it because I'm sick and tired of the constant whining and sophomoric soundbites. Plus, I'm in a lousy mood, I had a rough week, my boss is a schmuck, and I need a drink. -- DLA]

Democrats need to grow up and stop whining and take responsibility for themselves and the damage they caused. The Washington Post babbled again today about Obama inheriting a huge deficit from Bush. Amazingly enough, a lot of people swallow this BULL.

So once more, a short civics lesson.

Budgets do not come from the White House. They come from Congress and the party that controlled Congress since January 2007 is the Democratic Party. Furthermore, the Democrats controlled the budget process for Fiscal Year 2008 & FY 2009 as well as FY 2010 & FY 2011. In that first year, they had to contend with George Bush, which caused them to compromise on spending, when Bush somewhat belatedly got tough on spending increases.

For FY 2009 though, Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid bypassed George Bush entirely, passing continuing resolutions to keep government running until Barack Obama could take office. At that time, they passed a massive omnibus spending bill to complete the FY 2009 budgets.

And where was Barack Obama during this time? He was a member of that very Congress that passed all of these massive spending bills, and he signed the omnibus bill as President to complete FY 2009. Let's remember what the deficits looked like during that period. (Click on the chart. You know you want to.) If the Democrats inherited any deficit, it was the FY 2007 deficit, the last of the Republican budgets. That deficit was the lowest in five years, and the fourth straight decline in deficit spending. After that, Democrats in Congress took control of spending, and that includes Barack Obama, who voted for the budgets.

If Obama inherited anything, he inherited it from himself.

In a nutshell, what Obama is saying is “I inherited a deficit that I voted for and then I voted to expand that deficit four-fold since January 20.”

[... and that's the good news. The bad news is, the majority of Americans voted for him. Can Americans be that f@#$ing stupid? Yes we can! And, in the interest of full disclosure, I never voted for George W Bush. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, I went third party. I didn't waste my vote. The rest of you did. -- DLA]

FAMW: Lego Star Destroyer Time Lapse

I got my first set of LEGO building blocks for Christmas ... in the eighth grade. I would have been the scourge of my urbane, sophisticated classmates were they ever to have found out. But that's not all. My totally-radical-dude son Paul got himself a set just a few years ago. Why? Because LEGOs they be the shiznit, dawg! Hell'z yeah!

Check this guy out. He took eight Mountain Dews -- how many is that in Red Bulls? -- and nine hours in total, to complete this Star Destroyer made entirely of LEGOs. You can see it here at the speed of 3.1 minutes per second, while rocking to the sounds of "Playdough" by The Aquabats,* for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

* A ska band from Orange County, California, formed in 1994. I got Paul their second album, released in 1997, and later took him to his first ska concert. Yessir, I was a cool daddio!

Fifty Questions: 41-50

And so, we come to the end of our series of questions this week for Presidential debates, as formulated by Chris Sullivan of Different Bugle.

Hang on to your hats, my fellow Americans, for this fifth and final set of ten questions.

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41. On your second day in office, what agencies and programs do you intend to propose for elimination?

See my answer to question 7.

42. What would you do if China, Iran, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya or other countries turned isolationist?

As I would be President of the United States, as opposed to being president of the countries you mention, their decisions are out of my hands. If those decisions do not in any way constitute a hostile act towards these United States, I see no reason why they would change the status of our diplomatic relations with them. Of course, I will probably talk it over with, say, my Secretary of State, Congressional leaders -- you know, the usual suspects.

43. Should the US work to reduce its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction? If not, what countries should possess such weapons?

Under a foreign policy of non-intervention, toward which I as President would be inclined, it is certainly possible. I have no control over what other countries do, but I do have control over, and have an obligation to protect, these United States, and no action on my part will compromise that.

44. Is it immoral to take money by intimidation from one person and give it to another? What if a law says it's OK?

To the first question, yes. To the second question, such would in all likelihood be an unjust law, in which case the people of the United States are obliged to seek a change to it, the Congress is obliged to pass a law changing it, and I am obliged as President to sign it.

45. Explain the difference between law and legislation.

Legislation is the process by which the rules of societal conduct are made, whereas law is the rule or body of rules themselves.

46. Should people be free to ingest substances without the approval of government? If not, why is government approval needed and how does it change the act?

Laws exist for many reasons, the protection of the common good being among them. This not only applies to protection from the malfeasance of others, but the malfeasance towards oneself. Thus we have laws against suicide, to give one example.

47. How small does a business have to be before it can't expect a government bailout in bad economic times?

In this instance, to use an oft-quoted maxim, size does not matter.

48. Would you support the abolition of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and leave the Indians alone?

I would support the transformation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, into an agency dedicated to the self-determination of the Amerindian Nations, to the point where they can be left alone, and over the course of time, prosper. What form that would take would be determined on a case by case basis.

49. Would you seek the endorsement of the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and perhaps have ads featuring this person or campaigning with him?

No. (By the way, that is the dumbest question you have asked so far.)

50. Given the choice of two evils, should a person abstain from voting or vote for the lesser evil?

No one is required to vote, period. Should they so decide, however, I suppose it would depend upon the evil.

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That does it for this week, and this series of debate questions, folks. Good thing a guy like me wouldn't even have a chance to run as Dog Catcher, eh?

[Questions are the intellectual property of their author, and are reproduced here without permission or shame.]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things With Strings: Banjo

It sat in the spare room upstairs at my Grandma Alexander's house. The old banjo once belonged to Dad's Uncle Otto, Grandpa's brother. It was a Stewart, vintage 1916, that he likely bought through a mail-order catalog. Uncle Otto used to play for house parties and dance bands in the small towns and rural hamlets of west central Ohio nearly a century ago. But by the 1960s, he was gone, and it just laid there, with no strings, no skin stretched over the body, and no tuning pegs. And it seemed to a little shaver like me to be bigger than life, not to mention heavier. This did not stop the imagination from going to work, as I would pretend to play it.

My sister Mary inherited the old banjo in the mid-1970s. By the time we both got out of college later in the decade, she had learned to play reasonably well, and put it aside in exchange for a Gibson bluegrass model. It was passed on to me. I made a few improvements over an earlier and (in my estimation) poorer attempt at restoration, and I've been pretending on it ever since.

This picture above on the left is from September of 1982, from a former life, when I played at my own wedding reception.

They say that bluegrass music is the ugly stepchild of the country music world. If that is true, then the old-time mountain style of music is the ugly stepchild of bluegrass.

Most people think of bluegrass as a traditional form, what Alan Lomax once dubbed "folk music in overdrive." The reality is that it is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back only to the 1940s. Old-time music grew around the back porches and barn dances in the hills and hollows of Appalachia. Bluegrass music grew around the microphone with the tight harmonies of the "high lonesome sound." The rhythm, the cadence of mountain music is different, slower, more jaunty. This as opposed to the speed-driven, jazzy style associated with bluegrass. Many cannot tell the difference between the two, including well-intentioned bluegrass bands which try to play for square dances. But there is a difference.

Actor/comedian Steve Martin is a consummate banjoist. While most audiences associate him with the bluegrass style, he is quite adept at the old-time mountain music which preceded it by about two hundred years. The instrument is likely a derivative of the African "banjar," an instrument made from a gourd with animal skin stretched over it, and strings added from one end to the other. Sometimes it was played with an improvised bow, while other times it was "rapped" with the bent hand across the strings. The African slaves and freedmen brought it to the New World, and they shared it with the Scots-Irish who began to hole up in the Southern mountains, as it evolved into the form we recognize today. So many customs and folkways were shared between the two. This was only one of them.

The second video clip (above) provides an up-close-and-personal view of the clawhammer style, presented by David Holt as seen on the DVD "Beginning the 5-String Banjo" which is available at Homespun Music Instruction and

We've seen Steve Martin play a spirited medley in the old style. We'll close this out with a little snippet of him playing an Earl Scruggs classic, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." True, it does get the heels clicking. Too bad you can't dance to it.


Fifty Questions: 31-40

Well, the hits just keep on a-comin' here at the Black Hat Bandstand.

Our series of questions this week for Presidential debates, as formulated by Chris Sullivan of Different Bugle, continues with the fourth set of ten questions.

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31. Is it possible to maintain good government when politicians lie regularly?

Yes, but it does become more difficult than when they do not. Fortunately, we have elections, and the people of these United States are under no obligation to keep re-electing the same losers, over and over again, who got us into this mess in the first place.

32. Will you pledge to resign from office if it can be shown that you lied to the people?

No. The President of the United States has never been required to reveal everything he knows to the American people, especially when disclosure would violate legitimate matters of national security. I will pledge to submit myself to the Congress in the event of "high crimes and misdemeanors" which I may be alleged to have committed, given the traditional understanding of that term. That pledge will take place on the day I am sworn into office. Watch for it; it will be in all the papers.

33. If you are elected, will you pledge to release all secret information regarding government crimes or unexecuted planned crimes against citizens, such as MK ULTRA, Tuskegee Experiments, Operation Northwoods, Guatemalan Syphilis Experiments, CDC Measles Experiment, etc?

In the first days after an election, the President-elect undergoes a series of detailed security briefings, where information of this sort may be included. Should nothing of those revelations be compromised as a matter of national security -- I have to obey statutory law like everyone else -- my answer is: yes.

34. When a person's moral beliefs are in conflict with a legislative edict, what should he do?

It would depend on the edict. Beyond that, I have no answer.

35. Do you favor compelling citizens to violate their conscience?

No. Nor do I favor them violating the law of the land.

36. How does compelling someone to violate his conscience differ when we do it, from when the Communists, Nazis or Fascists did it?

It would depend upon the nature of the violation. Beyond that, I have no answer.

37. If the federal debt ceiling can be raised, what is it for?

Not much. See my answer to question 4.

38. Does the Constitution give the President exclusive power over foreign policy?


39. Do you consider people such as Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning and Mark Felt, heroes or traitors?

Treason is defined in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution as "levying War against [these United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." It further states that "[n]o Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." The answer is to be found there, as opposed to my personal whim. Beyond that, I leave the aforementioned to the judgment of history.

40. If elected, would you pledge to return to the practice of reporting to congress the state of the union by letter instead of speech?


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Hey, kids, we're almost done. Tune in tomorrow for the last installment.

[Questions are the intellectual property of their author, and are reproduced here without permission or shame.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“Do you have a degree in journalism?”

I was going to read about the so-called “Gang of Six” on the Hill, those three Democrats and three Republicans who are hammering out a deal for the budget that "everybody" can supposedly live with. Meanwhile I was made aware of yet another empty suit on MSNBC, known in polite company as Contessa Brewer, interviewing Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL), challenging his facility with economic matters. It seems that, according to his staff ...

Mo graduated from Duke University in three years with a double major in political science and economics, with highest honors in economics. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Alabama Law School.

There, there, sweetie, we really don't give a rat's @$$ what you think. Just tell us what happened today like a good newsgirl. Besides, we can't all be Chris Matthews.

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “You’re So Vain”

... you probably think this song is about you.

For a few of you out there with rather lofty opinions of yourselves, it's as good a guess as any. So it is for this, our usual midday Wednesday feature. Brett Bisogno created this winning video for Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” video contest, which asked fans and filmmakers to create the first and only concept video to accompany her iconic hit. That was a neat trick getting her to actually appear in the submission.

(Hey, you know who she looks like, maybe just a little? Nah, I'm sure it's just a coincidence.)

Fifty Questions: 21-30

Our series of questions this week for Presidential debates, as formulated by Chris Sullivan of Different Bugle, heads over the midweek hump with the third set of ten questions.

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21. Hawaii has a large secessionist movement. Do you support Hawaii's right to self-determination?

A number of states have secessionist movements, some being more active than others. My answer in the case of Hawai'i is the same as for the others. See my answer to question 12.

22. Do you support and would you continue the War On Drugs?

First of all, we are losing that war. Aside from securing our borders, which is the least any nation can do for itself, I would leave it to the several States to determine the legality of substances such as marijuana, be it for medical or recreational use. Prohibition did not work the last time we tried it, although my Great-grandmother Alexander ran quite an enterprise at the farmhouse with a certain by-product of corn. Alas, that is a story for another day. Considering that I have no experience even with marijuana -- you heard it right, America; not even in college, not even once -- I would be forced to take the matter as a whole under advisement.

23.(a.) Can you explain the difference between a war, conflict, police action, and kinetic military action?

Yes. A war is declared by Congress. The others are not. In my administration, Americans would learn the difference. I would be subject to The War Powers Act, and would only engage the Nation's armed forces if the Nation's defense were dependent upon it, and for an extended period of time with the approval of the Congress.

(b.) Are there other types of military actions other than these?

Yes, I can think of one, but if I tell you once I am President, I would have to kill you. (Hey, just kidding.)

24. Do you support government control of schooling?

I believe you mean "regulate" as opposed to "control." Very well, then. At the federal level, no, which is why I would propose to the Congress that we eliminate the Department of Education. At the state level, yes, inasmuch as the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution grants them that prerogative. Let the teachers' unions make their case where, in the words of Thomas O'Neill, "all politics is local."

25. In your opinion, who was the worst president, and why?

I should first say that my answer does not include the current President, as his term is not completed, therefore impeding a fair assessment. That said, there were several Presidents who could be considered to have performed poorly in office. If I had to choose one, it would be Warren G Harding, as he had the good sense to admit to his intimates that he should never have been elected in the first place. As he was there at the time and I was not, who am I to argue with him?

26. In your opinion, who was the best president, and why?

The first one, as George Washington set the tone for the role of the Presidency with the proper dignity and humility as has come to befit the office -- ostensibly.

27. In your opinion, what was the worst decision by the Supreme Court?

I have two answers, as they are very close. The first is
Roe v Wade, as a right to privacy per se is found nowhere in the Constitution, to say nothing of its usurpation of the rights of states on the matter in question, and basis upon that which has been subsequently determined to be false testimony. Running a close second would be Kelo v City of New London. If a republic can lay claim to a man's private property for the sole benefit of another man's personal profit, as opposed to genuine public interest as is the pretense for rights of imminent domain, it ceases to be a republic by any known definition, and becomes a dictatorship. That said, if nominated for Dictator, I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve.

28. Do you support government control of the internet?

I support government
regulation of interstate commerce, as does the Constitution. Beyond that, I would leave the internet alone to regulate itself.

29. Do you support turning airline security over to the airlines?

The skies are owned by the people as held in public trust, but the airlines are owned privately. The former would hold the latter accountable, through their duly elected officials, rather than assume the task themselves. This would exclude any violations of the Fourth Amendment concerning unreasonable search and seizure.

30. How can anyone be said to be free when the government has a prior claim on all he earns?

One cannot be said to be free under those conditions, which would explain my answers to questions 16, 17, and 18.

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Tomorrow, this writer is guaranteed to live even more dangerously. (Hey, you still with me?)

[Questions are the intellectual property of their author, and are reproduced here without permission or shame.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chaput Revisited

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has landed an exclusive interview with the Most Reverend Charles Chaput, Archbishop-designate of Philadelphia.

You know what the headlines are likely to be: "Pope names arch-conservative to Philadelphia," or "Hard-liner to take over Philly church." Are you really an arch-conservative and a hard-liner?

I actually don't see myself as a conservative at all. I try to be faithful to the church's teaching, as the church has handed it on to us. I don't feel that as a Christian or as a bishop I have a right to play with that tradition, which is the apostolic tradition of the church ... As an example, I certainly want to be faithful to the Holy Father and his teaching about the traditional expression of the Roman liturgy in the Tridentine form. I supported that and will continue to support that. It isn't, however, my personal interest or direction.

... but what does he fear most about his assignment?

Fifty Questions: 11-20

Our series of questions this week for Presidential debates, as formulated by Chris Sullivan of Different Bugle, continues with a second set of ten questions.

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11. If a state chooses to nullify a federal law, what action would you take?

It would depend on the law, and whether the authority of that law is more proper to the several States. I contend that the Founding Fathers meant what they said when they wrote something down, as most of us are wont to do, which is why I support a strict interpretation of the Constitution. As President, I swear allegiance to that Constitution. My action would take that obligation into account.

12. If a state were to secede from the union, what action would you take?

Historically, when a territory petitions to become a State, a relationship is formed with the whole, becoming symbiotic over time. This includes a share of federal infrastructure, and various forms of federal assistance, such as would not be possible were that territory to remain on its own. Any attempt at secession would require that I as President, petition the Congress to determine the full measure of compensation as beneficiary of that relationship, such that I would then, to the extent provided under the law, use my executive powers to exact it. Obviously, very few States are in a position to meet that requirement for self-determination, thus I do not expect a secessionist movement to be undertaken lightly.

13. Do you support repeal of laws compelling acceptance of government-issued money [legal tender laws]?

As is an internationally accepted criterion of sovereignty, the United States through the federal government has the legitimate authority to issue currency, as a means of legal tender for all debts, public and private. The short answer: Yes.

14. Has the US ever fought an enemy who was honorable? Which ones?

At least one; itself. In the War Between the States, Americans fought against Americans, and a state of truce was frequently enacted, so that those on either side could not only barter for goods, but learn of news from home or family. To suggest that one side was dishonorable would suggest that the other may have been as well. I am loathe to endeavor attaining high office of a nation determined to be any less.

15. Were the attacks on the Marine barracks in Beirut, or the USS Cole, terrorist attacks or attacks on a legitimate military target?

Yes to both.

16. What is the maximum amount – not percentage – that anyone should have to pay in taxes?

Taxation based upon a percentage of earnings has historically been a criterion for determining the amount of taxation. The question presumes that this is not the case, and is therefore not a fair question. I am not compelled to answer.

17. Do you support abolition of the income tax?

Eventually, yes, in favor of a national sales tax, among other measures that were the staple of the federal government's revenue before the income tax was imposed in peacetime. Until Congress sees fit to pull that together, I support a flat tax of no more than seventeen percent (that is, just over one-sixth) of personal income.

18. Why is discrimination prohibited, but is the basis for a progressive tax?

See the answers to questions 16 and 17.

19. Is simulated drowning, or "waterboarding," torture? If not, define the word torture.

Thankfully, this word already has a definition: "Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion, and/or an instrument or a method for inflicting such pain." Simulated drowning inflicts physical discomfort to the extent of being painful, which explains why most people try to avoid any form of drowning. Therefore waterboarding is torture.

20. Do you support transferring federal lands to the states in which they are located?

If I own a parcel of land in a municipality, and they wish to acquire it for their own purpose, it is reasonable to expect compensation at fair market value. Likewise, if the federal government cannot make the case for the common good being served by holding real property in any one of the several States, my answer is yes. Even so, proper compensation over the long term, based upon fair market value if necessary, must be arranged.

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Tomorrow's segment is guaranteed to cover dangerous ground. You have been warned.

[Questions are the intellectual property of their author, and are reproduced here without permission or shame.]

Monday, July 18, 2011

1990 Revisited

I wrote the following one year ago this day:

It was twenty years ago today, that I came home from work, and found a note in the place of my wife and son. If you want to know the extent of the damage that divorce can cause ... I can tell you what it cost me.

Read on.

Chaput For Philadelphia!

We are due for some good news today, methinks. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the Most Reverend Charles Joseph Chaput, OFM Cap, the present Archbishop of Denver, to be the next Archbishop of Philadelphia.

We cannot begin to compete with the analysis of Rocco Palmo, so we will not.

Yours truly met the Archbishop in the late 1990s, when still carrying credentials for the Arlington Catholic Herald at the annual bishops' conference meeting in Washington, and a priest-friend of mine introduced me to him over lunch. He is an outgoing, amiable sort of fellow, definitely more outgoing than the current Ordinary, Justin Cardinal Rigali, who is overdue for retirement at the age of 76. Chaput has been an outspoken champion of orthodoxy on both socio-political and doctrinal issues, both in addressing the larger issues of the Church and the world, and in the governance of the Archdiocese of Denver. He will undoubtedly bring that voice to his new and more visible position in what is reputedly a political battleground state.

He will also bring a vigorous work ethic and strong sense of clerical discipline to the position, which is welcome in an Archdiocese still reeling from chronic mishandling of clerical sexual abuse cases. It is in this area tha reviews are mixed. A piece in the National Catholic Reporter -- hey, even a stopped clock is correct twice a day -- cites praise from individual victims, but a thumbs-down from groups such as SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

Chaput also has an interest in matters affecting Native Americans. His mother, who passed away in 2007, was a full-blooded Potawatomi. Chaput himself is a full member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Fifty Questions: 1-10

Chris Sullivan of Different Bugle has developed a list of fifty questions to ask Presidential candidates during a debate. He thinks he can come up with more, but fifty seems to be a handful for them as it is. If I had my way, every candidate would have to fill out a questionnaire like this one, and it would be posted on the internet by the League of Women Voters or some other neutral party. But they're all too chicken. Fortunately, that's not a problem here at mwbh. So, every day this week, Monday through Friday, we will answer ten at a time.

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1 (a.) All of you who use an income tax preparer, raise your hand.

(Raised hand.)

(b.) If you (who raised hands) can not prepare your own taxes, how do you propose to run the country?

The same way I would if running anything else; I would find smart people who knew a little bit more than I did in various and sundry matters, and surround myself with them. It's called "delegating." I would no more apologize for it than the rest of you idiots do for yourselves.

2. If you can not prepare your own tax returns, is it reasonable to hold the average citizen criminally liable for errors?

If "the buck stops" with me, it stops with them too. A smart taxpayer will use a preparer who agrees to represent them in the case of an audit. He would also sit with the preparer as the work is being done. (Yes, I do.)

3. How do you expect to understand bills sent to you for your signature if you can't fill out a tax return?

Taxes are prepared; bills are read. There is a difference. Duh. I will read the bill, give portions to my senior policy staff to read, review a two-page summary prepared by the staff in addition reading to the full bill, and go from there.

4. At what point will the national debt be "too high"?

At least thirty years ago. The debt should be based upon the ability to back it with available assets, if only as a contingency. I would use the early 1970s as a benchmark, when the debt was less than one percent of the GDP, and taxes were still relatively low.

5. What is the case law giving the federal government power to prohibit the possession of drugs?

What case law there is would most likely be unconstitutional. Unless specifically called for, I would propose to turn that power over to the several States. The federal role would be limited to regulation of interstate commerce, which is within the limits of the Constitution, and would control most nefarious usage of illegal substances.

6. Assuming all of you are against waste, fraud and abuse; what specific programs and agencies do you propose to eliminate?

The assumption here is that if a program and/or agency is eliminated, the demand for that which is provided by its mission is not. That said, it is the wrong question to ask. The right question would be: what services should the American people no longer expect at the federal level?

7. Should any federal departments or programs ever be eliminated, if so, which ones?

It is my contention, that the need to preserve the Union during the War Between the States, created the byproduct of a significant increase in the role of the central government in relation to the several States. Therefore, most cabinet level agencies formed after that conflict would be subject to particular scrutiny under any proposal I would make to the Congress.

8. How many military bases does the U.S. maintain in foreign countries?

Too many.

9. How many do you propose to close?

Whichever ones are not essential to the common defense of the United States, as called for in its Constitution. My proposal would be determined based upon a recommendation by a joint working group of the White House and the Departments of State and Defense. Other nations may have to learn to take care of themselves.

10. How much does it cost to keep the above-mentioned bases in operation?

More than we can afford. See answers to questions 8 and 9, to say nothing of 4.

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Keep checking back throughout each day, as they won't be answered all at once. Facebook readers will have an opportunity to take time out from looking at blog pictures of nuns in full habit playing ice hockey to provide their own responses in the comments section. AND ... in the interest of full disclosure, if nominated I will not run, and if elected I will not serve. The pay and benefits are really great, but personally, I don't like the hours.

[Questions are the intellectual property of their author, and are reproduced here without permission or shame.]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dr Warren Carroll, RIP (Updated)

We have learned of the death earlier today of Dr Warren Carroll, founder and first president of Christendom College, after a long illness.

Dr Carroll established the College in 1977, in response to a decline of both Catholic identity and the liberal arts in academia. He pioneered the renewal of Catholic higher education, more than a decade before Pope John Paul II issued his constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae. Dr Carroll was completing the last of a six-volume series on the History of Christendom. He was also the author of one fiction and eight other non-fiction works. He is survived by his wife, Anne.

The College has posted a tribute of its own.

UPDATE: Viewing will be held at All Saint's Catholic Church in Manassas, Virginia, on July 25th, from 1-3pm and from 6-8pm. The Funeral Mass will be held on July 26th at All Saint's at 10am.

Uncle Jay Explains It All For You

In the history of broadcasting, Cincinnati is one of its best kept secrets. WLW Radio, "the nation's station," cranked as many as 500,000 watts in the early days, eventually being reduced to 50,000 by the end of the 1930s (retaining its higher power during the night hours), which didn't stop it from being where Rosemary Clooney and a host of other performers got their start. In the early 1950s, more television network programming was produced in Cincinnati than in New York City. In the 1960s, a weeknight puppet show -- the work of Larry Smith, perhaps; gotta fact-check that one -- betrayed the offbeat influence of Ernie Kovaks, which may very well have inspired The Muppets. (Can't prove it; wouldn't be surprised.)

So it came as no surprise, when Paul "The Regular Guy" Mitchell brought my attention to “Uncle Jay” Gilbert, I was to learn that he was from "the Queen City of the West." Originally a host on Album-Oriented-Rock pioneer WEBN-FM in the mid-1990s, later appearing on the local ABC affiliate, WCPO, Uncle Jay Explains The News possesses a quirky style that can only come from a city in the Midwest, especially Cincinnati.

This guy is absolutely nuts, which is why we're gonna keep him around, as the Official “Crazy Uncle” of man with black hat. (Couldn't happen to a nicer guy ...)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jay Cost Explains It All For You

“Another Saturday night, and I ain't got ...”

... a clue about what's going on with the talks about the debt ceiling, or why I always hear so much about posturing, and stupid soundbites about somebody else posturing, or whatever stupid thing Michele Bachmann supposedly just said that doesn't bother us when President Obama says it (assuming we ever hear about it) ...

There's a reason why none of us have a clue, and Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard is here to tell us. The mainstream media is “relentlessly emphasizing the personal dramas rather than the big picture.” And he is as fed up with it as the rest of us, so ...

... let’s sketch that out today: a broad-based look at why this current fight is so messy and what the prospects are for the future politics of deficit reduction.

It wasn’t always like this. Between 1947 and 1967 the federal budget deficit was negligible, equaling only 0.3 percent of GDP. Yet tax rates remained relatively low ...

As yours truly has been saying from the offset, to reduce the role of the federal government in our daily lives, is to decide what to do without. But first, find out how we got here over half a century, which spreads the blame on policy makers in both parties, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, not to mention whoever elected them. Then we can all go back to wondering what Kim Kardashian wore at a Hollywood movie premiere last weekend.

Ah, the burning issues of our time!

THIS JUST IN: Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner says the United States has been in default before; not once, but several times. Read all about it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mikey Bustos: Filipino Plastic Balloon Tutorial

That's right, kids. Everybody's favorite Pinoy Boy is back with more Filipino Fun and Folkways.

Many of the customs that have woven their way into the Philippine people are actually of recent vintage. Even the Christmas parol lanterns, as traditional to them as Christmas trees are here in the States, were only invented at the turn of the previous century. In this video, Mikey explains the wonders of a favorite childhood toy, the plastic balloon, where making them is as much fun as playing with them.

Harry Potter in Six Minutes

I went to see the first Harry Potter movie -- something about a stone -- when it came out in 2001. The first few minutes gave me a headache, and I walked out. It was less likely any possible diabolical influence made manifest in the movie, than it was the pain in the ass for company I was keeping at the time. For those who have determined that this sage is not the devil's work (and the Black-Hatted One has absolutely no opinion in this matter), but who haven't seen them until now and are ready to give the eighth and final episode a shot, we here at mwbh have provided this brief synopsis of the first seven movies, courtesy of

FAMW: The Audiencey of Hope

Conan O Brian loves award shows, so he decided to host an awards show for his very own studio audience. Make of it what you will, but it will have to do, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things With Strings: Autoharp II

After last week's introduction to the autoharp, we received an interesting observation from our correspondent "mamayama"...

Actually, when the autoharp was invented they intended it for table-top use; Mother Maybelle Carter popularized its use as a "cuddle-harp". One of the only instruments you can play and sing with the first time you pick it up: a nice, gradual learning curve!

This first video clip features an authentic original of country music herself, Mother Maybelle, as she appeared on The Johnny Cash Show (her son-in-law, by the way) on March 31, 1971.

And just in case you thought only women liked to "cuddle," here is our subject from last week, John Sebastian Jr, showing us a bit of that learning curve. This is a sample lesson from "Learn to Play Autoharp" (#DVD-SEB-AU21), available from a longtime favorite resource of yours truly, Homespun Music.

We also received more news from "mamayama" over the past week.

I saw a rock music video recently, where the female artist was walking, strumming autoharp and singing through the whole, can I remember the artist and the song? Of course not! ;-) Perhaps it will come to me ... I think she was from across the Atlantic ...

A bit closer to home, actually, at least from this end. Basia Bulat is a Canadian folksinger-songwriter from Ontario. She is featured here in her music video for "In The Night."

Next week, we move down the menu, with an instrument that has a long story. Till then ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “Sheep May Safely Graze”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This is an acoustic instrumental version of a classical favorite (aka Cantata #208) by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by guitarist Brian Bunker. You may listen to this and other classical works at his MySpace page. In addition to classical music, Bunker also performs jazz as frontman for the Brian Bunker Trio.

Schafe können sicher weiden,
    Sheep may safely graze,
Wo ein guter Hirte wacht.
    where a good shepherd watches.
Wo Regenten wohl regieren,
    Where rulers govern well,
Kann man Ruh und Friede spüren
    we may feel peace and rest
Und was Länder glücklich macht.
    and what makes countries happy.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Wake me when the persecution is over!

Michael Voris reports on the passage of the law in New York which legalizes same-sex "marriages," as well as the lack of testicular fortitude demonstrated by the Catholic bishops of the state of New York, and in particlar, that candy-@$$ who hasn't had a bad meal since he got to wear the pointy-hat Archbishop Dolan of the CITY of New York. Voris contends that a slippery slope is to follow, as any institution, even the Church, will not be safe from genuine persecution, once sodomy is perceived to be a "civil right."

Please note that we are confining ourselves to the acting out of unnatural sexual proclivities, not to the inclination thereof. The former is a matter of choice, just as even a husband and wife can choose whether to indulge the marital privilege on any given occasion. (Otherwise, why do you want the "right" to DO, as opposed to BE, that which you maintain you cannot control, thus for which you cannot assume any responsibility?) The latter may or may not be a choice. It doesn't matter.

In one sense, Michael has more to worry about than he may know. On the other, maybe not.

His primary audience is that of faithful Catholics, many of whom get a burr in their saddle if the local bishop doesn't drop everything and plant an oratory for the Traditional Mass and Sacraments at the end of their cul-de-sac. These are people who cry endlessly about the danger posed to the souls of their children, but are too comfortable to move to another city. (I mean, if it really is a choice between your immortal soul and your career track, what's stopping you?) These people are hardly ready to put up much of a fight, lest they attempt to pencil it into their already-busy schedules.

The point is, the milquetoasts I've just described are the hard-liners.

On the other hand, the statistics abound in the USA, which show that avowed homosexuals tend to occupy the upper income brackets. (I said "TEND to," you dumb-@$$! Pay attention!) We can conclude that most of them are pretty comfortable as well. And, sooner or later, to force acceptance of their lifestyle on the rest of society -- if they're anything like THIS intellectual giant, it's gonna be a long one -- is to force acceptance of the description of the act that permeates said lifestyle. Good luck keeping your lunch down after that one, folks.

While they're at it, they can explain how I'm supposed to be able to tell which one is the "husband" and which one is the "wife." In a heterosexual marriage, there are little clues like body parts and which one gets pregnant while the other cannot. Ever. Until they can work that out amongst themselves, they're in a real tough position to expect me to accept something they can't even explain.

What's more, they can also explain why their counterparts in California demonstrated against Proposition 6, by attacking Mormon churches, and not African-American churches. Why are they less afraid of Mormons than they are African-Americans? (Ever see Mormons try to pick a fight? Are drive-by shootings ever attributed, justly or unjustly, to Mormons? I rest my case.)

I've got a gay couple living around the corner from me. They're nice neighbors, and I don't get any trouble from them. I want to keep it that way; not out of any fear of them (and therefore not driven by "homophobia" as the term can only be understood), but because I like minding my own business. I know what I believe, and by the grace of God, I must be prepared to die for it. What I'm not willing to do, is get too excited too early in the game, let alone be bullied by any group that is too choosy as to where or with whom they pick their battles. I don't have to justify that position for anyone who wants the world to revolve around them and their household for their own convenience -- or for that matter, anyone else.

I'll save my live ammunition for when the real enemy uses theirs.

UPDATE: There's more where that came from, dear reader. Click here.

Pat Buchanan Revisited

Yesterday, I spoke of my conversation with syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan. He was on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning (possibly the only show worth watching on that channel). Former congressman Joe Scarborough was hosting as usual, and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan was there as well. They were having the same conversation with him as was I, and it was him against them. If you watch the clip, at 07:25, he starts to embellish ... just a little.

"I went to a Latin Mass yesterday for an hour and a half, and after it was over, the deacon had me up against the wall and said, 'You're not for raising that debt ceiling are you, Mr Buchanan?' Listen, friends ..."

I am occasionally reminded by the "powers that be" that an adult male in clerical dress, even under proper circumstances, can be a source of confusion amidst the pews. I have respectfully shared with them, of how I can be at a cocktail party talking about the Catholic faith, and people ask me if I'm a deacon, or even a priest.

Hey, people, maybe I just look good in black. Does anyone ever think about that? IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!!

(H/T to Ryan Ellis.)

Coming Soon: Miguel Antonio (Reyes Dela Cruz Tumanguil) Bustos

The man who "skooled" you on traditional Filipino courtship is going to be a father for the first time. For just over three minutes, he laments the challenges of co-existing with wife, Michelle. Will all fathers who ever had a ringside seat to this wonder of nature identify with him? Will all mothers who ever gave birth tell him to "man up" already?

You decide, ano?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pat Buchanan Explains It All For ... Guess Who?

Of those who follow the news out of Washington, few are in a position to personally run into, much less be acquainted with, those whose views on the political comings and goings are the stuff of the Sunday morning talk shows and the daily newspapers. Standing outside of Mass today, accompanying the celebrant as a Master of Ceremonies is wont to do, I had the opportunity to ask for a clarification from one such pundit whom I see on a periodic basis.

The House has not said it will not raise the debt ceiling. It must and will. It has not said it will not accept budget cuts. It has indicated a willingness to accept the budget cuts agreed to in the Biden negotiations.

Where the GOP has stood its ground is on tax increases ...

... which is to say, NO tax increases, the backbone of their promises to voters last fall.

I got the distinct impression from a man whose written works I have admired over the years, that the House should put the burden of yes or no to raising the debt ceiling, on both the Democrat-controlled Senate and the President, while at the same time insisting upon the budget cuts for which the Republican majority in the House have fought, all the while without a tax increase. (He cited one prominent Democrat in the Senate as being already on board.) This would put the proverbial monkey on the backs of the Democrats, who then could not very well blame the Republicans if they do otherwise and the country defaults.

Then again, I might be even more confused than before.

One thing is for sure. Before I ask this gentleman why Alexander Hamilton, and not Thomas Jefferson, was his favorite Founding Father, I'm gonna make REAL sure I've read the Federalist Papers from cover to cover.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I do not presume to speak for a man who is perfectly capable of speaking for himself.)

Friday, July 08, 2011

FAMW: A “John Philip Sousa” Flash Mob?

On June 23, the new Giant Food store opened (finally!) along Columbia Pike in south Arlington. Now the folks here at Chez Alexandre can walk a mere 0.3 miles to the main drag to get whatever they need, just a few doors down from The Salsa Room. Speaking of which, shoppers were greeted that day by a mariachi band.

Meanwhile, at a location of the sister chain Stop and Shop in the northeast, shoppers stocking up for a holiday weekend got a surprise of their own. On July 1, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they got a good dose of patriotism from a flash mob organized by the Spirit of America Band. Just the ticket for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Better late than never.

Simcha Fisher says ...

... something about a pet peeve of mine for many years, when newscasters report about religion, especially Catholicism. Divine revelation is reduced to "policy." Administrative procedure is "dogma." Either one constitutes the Church's "rules." It's especially bad when the pundit or politician is Catholic and should know better.

[I]f someone tells you, “The Vatican says,” then it probably doesn’t. And what do they mean, “The Vatican,” anyway? And what do they mean, “says?” ... What they usually mean by this is, “A retired cardinal had a little too much sangria at lunch, and told the bus driver . . .” or “The homeless guy who sleeps near St. Peter’s was heard to mumble . . . ” Or, “The Pope said something reasonable, so we’ll pretend he said something else, instead.”

This was also a common phenomenon in discussions at a certain Jesuit parish in Georgetown, with which I was once associated, and which shall go unnamed. Supposedly, by hanging around Jesuits long enough, some of that erudition will rub off. Eventually, something does rub off, but ...


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Timeless Wisdom @Twitter

There are people in this world who see that world in a way that others do not, who have the gift of imagination, and the will to bring it to bear in the marketplace of ideas. Tom Corsillo is a publicist, competitive air guitarist, and sesquipedalian, who lives in New York City. He has shared some important insights gained from a recent high-profile murder trial -- and, in so doing, has met his match.

The biggest takeaway from the Casey Anthony trial is we now know what we've long suspected. People with two first names can't be trusted.
Wed 06 Jul 23:00

@tom9d What about three? like uh, Paul David Alexander?
Wed 06 Jul 23:28

@fender_splendor The third one reverses it. That makes you extra trustworthy.
Thu 07 Jul 09:17

From the D, to the P: you're welcome.

Things With Strings: Autoharp I

In considering the future of our usual Thursday feature, it was determined that a side route might well serve us for a spell. Looking around in the study of Chez Alexandre, there are seven or eight instruments lying around. This writer has learned to play all of them, with varying degrees of ability. The guitar, of course, is my first love. This is a review of the others, some of which were the subject of a web design project from six years ago.

This is a performance of the folk-rock band known as The Lovin' Spoonful, from the long-running CBS variety hour known as The Ed Sullivan Show, on the evening of January 22, 1967. Notice that the lead vocalist, John Sebastian Jr, is playing the AUTOHARP. I can remember schoolteachers back in the day, who used to play it on their laps in front of the class, unaware that it was traditionally played in the manner shown here. I also remember watching this performance when it was live:

“Yes I was just thirteen, you might say I was a musical proverbial knee-high, when I heard a couple new soundin’ tunes on the tube and they blasted me sky-high ...”

I remember my dad commenting on Sebastian having a nice singing voice. It was an unusual observation in light of the genre, in relation to the source.

The autoharp has not been considered a staple of rock or pop music, but it has had its moments. The 1979 hit "Just When I Needed You Most" by singer-songwriter Randy VanWarmer was one of them. It reached number four on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and stayed in the Top 40 for 14 weeks, and was eventually certified as a Gold record (meaning it sold one million copies). That instrumental break only looks like VanWarmer back-strumming the guitar, but in reality it is the same John Sebastian Jr, backing the performer on the same autoharp.

John and his band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Not too shabby for an autoharp player. Next week he'll show you how it's done.

Until then, rock on ...