Wednesday, January 30, 2013

“Don’t it make you wanna go home ...”

We interrupt our normal blogcasting, to admit we've been on the road lately.

IMAGE: Aerial photograph of Milford, Ohio, looking northeast, from around 1957. The old downtown is at the lower left, while the postwar development to the east (including this writer's "old" neighborhood) is at the upper right. Photographer unknown. From the Alexander Family Archives.

Right now I'm sitting in the home in which I grew up. For the past eleven months, it has been subject to a good going over, as possessions of the last five and a half decades are found in the dark corners of the basement storeroom, and old cedar chests that we attempted to open to our peril, until now. And so, some of our regular features will not be making an appearance this week. But we do have one irregular feature, which is expected (with our fingers crossed) to see the light of bandwidth tomorrow.

I left Ohio in December of 1980. People ask me how long it took me to get used to living in the DC area, and this is what I tell them: “The first twenty years were the hardest.” It was only after that long that I really had a sense of home. There were other factors as well; making somewhat of a name for myself in one field of endeavor or another, buying a home, and ... well, maybe Sal had a lot to do with it. But even then, there is a familiarity that comes with having been "bread and buttered" in one place. There is even a Facebook group for people like us called "You know you're from Milford, Ohio, if ..." Milfordites both residing and expatriated gather to compare memories and look up old friends and neighbors.

When I drive down the main drag (which would be US Route 50), I have to remind myself of where I am, and where I ain't. The pace of life is more moderate here, and so the temptation to drive 35 or 40 on a four-lane road must be resisted, as the speed limit is only 25 because it's in town, and I know where they might be watching.

The idea of moving back to the Cincinnati area when I retire (probably around 2020, at the end of which I will be sixty-six) is on the table, but I don't know if I could actually move back to Milford. It's nice to come back and visit, but Milford has changed, and I've changed. The old downtown area is now the domain of antique stores and overpriced restaurants, with any number of strip malls and office buildings hanging "For Lease" signs in front for months, even years. The city's leaders (to use the polite term) are annexing one cow pasture after another, and bending zoning laws to the limit to encourage development, when the city can't fill the commercial space it has now.

But when I drive down main street, a part of me doesn't see a collection of stores, most of which sell things that most people could probably get along without (other than the coffee bar where the jewelry store used to be). I see the old A&P food store, the hardware store, the furniture store, the gas station where my dad would hang out for want of something better to do (as it was either that or the bars, and he got his fill of hanging around drunks as a boy), the old village hall -- that's right, people, these yokels actually moved it completely outside of downtown into some innocuous looking office building -- and, get this, the "Odd Fellows Hall." Every small town has at least a few of them, and they have to meet somewhere.

You can see in these illustrated maps, the path of I-275, what was once called the "Circle Freeway." When the eastern section was completed by the mid-1970s, the nearest access to Milford was on a flood plain near the East Fork of the Little Miami River, so environmentalists put up a fierce battle for years. Eventually they lost, and now there is development at the "River's Edge," where nature never intended it. The fields we wandered playing baseball and collecting arrowheads, the creek where we went swimming and building makeshift dams, all replaced by a giant "athletic park" and a collection of strip malls and big box stores. Still, it was too little too late, and the real development took off to the south (roughly where the map says "Summerside" and which is actually called "Eastgate"). A shopping center a mile inside the "circle" has been at least one-third empty since practically the day I left. It was simply not close enough to the freeway to get the big traffic, and that which is in town was simply not enough.

Milford has changed, and I've changed.

In the early 1990s, when I lived in Georgetown, I got used to city living, and being able to walk to work, to the grocery store, the hardware store, to the movie theater, and to church. I have that for the most part where I am now, and I can't imagine it any other way. I would only want to live in a small town if I could still do that. For all the pretensions of whomever makes the decisions around here, to make it seem otherwise, a small town is all Milford will ever be.

Ain't nuthin' wrong with that, don'tcha think?

Or don'tcha?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

“Many hot dogs are within you.”

Several years ago, I was at a two-day crash course known as “Video Boot Camp” when the instructor, a New York City-based TV producer-director of some repute, told me I had what it took to do voice-overs. People had told me before that I had a voice for radio (if not the face for television), but never a guy who made a living saying it. And since my superiors were in the room, I ended up for a while doing voice-overs at my (day) job for internal use.

I was reminded of this yet again tonight, in a conversation on Skype, with this commercial as a case in point.

The prospect of a regular videocast, under the auspices of man with black hat, has been on the drawing board for some time now. If it happens at all, it would be in 2014 at the earliest, with a new edition the same time every week, running between two and three minutes. With a necessarily fast-paced format, it would basically cover the same issues as in this venue, only more so. We would start with a pilot to show to a select audience, then a revision based on the input. From there an established formula, and regular production schedule, would be ready to go.

More on the details at a later date. For now, somebody “tell the world.”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

After the March: “Give Us Dirty Laundry”

IMAGE: CNS Photo by Jonathan Ernst of Reuters. Used here without permission or shame.

The March for Life is arguably the largest annual public demonstration in the Nation's capital, and one of the most peaceful, with this year's attendance (honestly) estimated at over half a million. It supposedly got very little mention in the mainstream media. Actually, it got a fair amount, most of which was tilted rather disingenuously in favor of those who held the opposite viewpoint. The number of pro-choice demonstrators countering this event never reaches into the thousands, but they manage to get equal or near-equal time. And every year, pro-life pundits ask each other why.

This is one of those questions that most of them ask for its own sake. And to be honest, the question posed in the photograph above would only be fair if the same news outlet were responsible for handling both stories in the manner described. But what most of the aforementioned pundits do not know, or at least do not acknowledge openly, is that there are not one, but two answers.

The first answer is the one they already know, that most "journalists" in the mainstream media outlets are biased towards the legalization of abortion, even admitting openly as to what it is. But the other reason is also embedded in the Western culture, and more of us contribute to its flourishing than we care to admit.

“Dirty Laundry” is a song by Don Henley, formerly of the Eagles, from his 1982 debut solo album I Can't Stand Still. It reached number one on the Billboard Top Tracks chart in October of that year, and was certified platinum before the end of the following year by the Recording Industry Association of America, having sold over one million copies.

The lyrics are a commentary on the shallowness of contemporary television news, and "was inspired by the intrusive press coverage surrounding the deaths of John Belushi and Natalie Wood, and Henley's own arrest in 1981." To this day, it remains a regular on the setlist for Eagles' reunion tours.

We can do "The Innuendo"
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done we haven't told you a thing
We all know that Crap is King
Give us dirty laundry!

Henley performs this number in the above video, from a live performance in November of 1995, featuring the most bodacious guitar solos of Joe Walsh (round one) and (if only on the recording) Toto's Steve Lukather (round two).

All together now: “Kick ’em when they’re up, Kick ’em when they’re down, Kick ’em when they’re stiff, Kick ’em all around.”

FOOTNOTE: To be fair, the Washington Post has a photo gallery with their web edition, which for the most part portrays a sympathetic view of the March. Sadly, this was not the case in the print edition. Our awareness as to which one is more accessible notwithstanding, it does show that the event in question, and the cause it champions, is becoming harder to ignore, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

FAMW: Obligatory Pro-Life Flash Mob

We never thought we could find anything comedic with a pro-life theme, when come late in the day, there it was, a scene from responding to a "Walk For Choice" rally in Chicago in February of 2011. (Please note the "Shire" theme song from Lord of the Rings.) The youth assembled inconspicuously around the plaza before the rally hiding their giant yellow balloons in black trash bags. When the "choice" people had assembled, the youth prompted by music coming from a backpack sound system, then proceeded to unveil the helium balloons imprinted with the word “LIFE.”

We'll leave you with that for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

2013 “ProLifeCon” Twitcast and Transcript

Today it begins, our fourth annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense to come in out of the cold during the annual March for Life. (Click here for last year's transcript.) The following is the transcript of this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC. Items may have been edited slightly for correction. Clarity or corrections in quotations are indicated with brackets. Items listed in green entered the feed during our report, and were considered germaine to the topic at hand.

A pre-recording of the video feed from the conference is below (where the proceedings begin at 07:49), along with other presented video highlights. You can learn more about the event at the FRC website, or follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon.

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Transcript of Twitcast

The #ProLifeCon is underway. Let the tweets begin!

Jeanne Monahan is President of the March for Life. #prolifecon

"We have lost one-sixth of the present US population to abortion." #prolifecon

"We are the new normal in the United States. And the majority of the young people are prolife." #prolifecon

"Look into your heart and ask yourself, 'What can I do to build a culture of life in the United States?'" #prolifecon

Jill Stanek was a hospital nurse who discovered babies aborted live and left to die. She went public. You know the rest. #prolifecon

Josh Duggar of Arkansas is involved in prolife politics in his state. Also from the reality TV show "19 Kids and Counting." #prolifecon

"40 years of unborn children denied the gift that God has given us. We look around in this room, and we don't see "tissue.'" #prolifecon
08:53 #prolifecon

Dan Pennell is presenter for the website. #prolifecon

Short video presentation on the mission of featuring Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. #prolifecon

Welcome to North Carolina Right to Life. #prolifecon

"We're trying to stop abortion, and have it be over with." #prolifecon

"If a woman had more access to the facts, and the effects of abortion, she would see thru the lies of Planned Parenthood." #prolifecon

Life United is not simply a new institution, but an attempt to unite existing ones to spread their message. #lifeunited #prolifecon

See the movie "180" on the website, with what is arguably the most powerful argument(s) against abortion. #prolifecon

Kristan Hawkins is President of Students for Life of America. #prolifecon

"Those of us born after January of 1973 are the survivor generation." #prolifecon

"The majority of the half a million people gathered for the March for Life are going to be young people." #prolifecon

"Planned Parenthood doesn't want to use the word 'pro-choice' because it is associated with abortion." #prolifecon

"Today, women are being scheduled to die, lives are going to be ruined." #prolifecon

Janet Durig is Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center. #prolifecon

When you talk to women in crisis pregnancy centers, you discover that not all pregnancies are alike. #prolifecon

One of Ms Durig's clients was a 16-year-old girl who had had six abortions. She remembered the dates of all of them. #prolifecon

For many of the urban poor, abortion is simply another form of birth control, often subsidized to a greater or lesser degree. #prolifecon

Lives are being changed for the better, thanks to visits to crisis pregnancy centers. #prolifecon

Dr Michael J New is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. #prolifecon

A presentation of statistics "both fun and serious." #prolifecon

People who once advocated abortion as a cure to social ills no longer speak in those terms. #prolifecon

Abortion has not reduced unwanted pregnancies, child abuse, or out-of-wedock child births. #prolifecon

Since 1973, child abuse has arisen by over 1000 percent in the United States. #prolifecon

Abortion has failed to lower the crime rate, and the statistics that say so are incomplete, therefore misleading. #prolifecon

A steady increase in violent crimes by 17 to 24 year olds. #prolifecon


[FRC] @manwithblackhat Thanks for joining us at #prolifecon David!

During the break, a clip from "Surrender the Secret" was shown. #prolifecon

Dean Nelson is from the National Black Pro-Life Coalition. #prolifecon
09:58 #prolifecon

"The leading cause of death in the black community is abortion." #prolifecon

Before Roe v Wade, black women had the lowest rate of abortion. #prolifecon

70 percent of Planned Parenthood's abortion facilities are within walking distance of blacks and latinos. #prolifecon

Black congressmen and senators generally not held accountable to those who elected them, thus are accountable to the lobbyists. #prolifecon

Rep Diane Black is a Repubican congresswoman from Tennessee. #prolifecon

Black [has endorsed] a pro-life amendment to the Tennessee state constitution. She is [currently] on the House Budget Committee. #prolifecon

The polls notwithstanding, abortions are decreasing, and the number of young people who are prolife is increasing. #prolifecon

HR 217: The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibiton Act #prolifecon

Planned Parenthood performed over 300K abortions last year. #prolifecon

"Abortion is a war on women. Abortion is not health care." #prolifecon

"Abortion is not good for women, for children, or for society." #prolifecon

Dr Russell Moore is Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. #prolifecon

Dr Moore is here to talk about adoption. #prolifecon

The prolife movement has a responsibility to widows and orphans in need. #prolifecon

"We must be aware of the way in which some of our arguments will effect ... the long run." #prolifecon

We must seek to appeal to those who have been hardened, or are damaged by the effect of abortion. #prolifecon

"We speak with justice and mercy to those on the other side, whose hearts can be changed." #prolifecon

Jason Jones is founder of MovieToMovement. #prolifecon

Hollywood producers of several documentaries, as well as the movie "Bella." #prolifecon

A trailer from his latest movie "Crescendo." #prolifecon

The mission of "Movie To Movement" is to show the beauty of the human person to the world. #prolifecon

"We want to raise a million dollars for crisis pregnancy centers on February 28th." #prolifecon

Roland Warren is CEO of Care Net. #prolifecon

His wife became pregnant while still in college, and was urged to have an abortion so she could finish med school. #prolifecon

His son is now at Harvard. #prolifecon

"Charles Manson's mother chose life. Wouldn't it have been better for him to have been aborted?" #prolifecon

"There are not two choices here, but three. Charles Manson could have been a good boy who learned to be a good man." #prolifecon

"I'm not prolife. I'm pro ABUNDANT life." #prolifecon

"We are not just saving a baby; we are raising a child." #prolifecon

"We need to focus on being the most compassionate to the most vulnerable, not just for the baby, but for the mother." #prolifecon

Lila Rose is President of LiveAction, working to investigate and report on abuses in the abortion industry. #prolifecon

Her work has documented sexual abuse coverups, misuse of funds, participation in sex trafficking, and more. #prolifecon

"I am so blessed and so grateful to be on the side of the truth." #prolifecon

"There's no such thing as a 'safe' abortion." A video is presented entitled "Is It Safe?" #prolifecon
11:00 #prolifecon

Rep Trent Franks is a Republican congressman from Arizona. #prolifecon

"The first Republicans set out to maintain that 'all men are created equal.'" #prolifecon

"If there is even one step we can take to save another child ... can we say we are not ready to challenge this carnage?" #prolifecon

President Obama said this about schoolchildren who were victims of gun violence. Can it not apply to the unborn? #prolifecon

"Truth and time travel on the same road." #prolifecon

Gandhi said that tyrants always fail, while the truth always prevails. #prolifecon

Tony Perkins is President of the Family Research Council. #prolifecon

Mr Perkins is presenting closing remarks for the event. "Abortion is a symptom; it is not the source." #prolifecon

"I pray this will not be the end of your activities, but the beginning. A generation has passed; this is the new generation." #prolifecon

Thus ends this year's Twitcast. Stay tuned later today for the complete transcript at And ... we're out. #prolifecon

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The proceedings began and ended on time, which is rare when you get enough important people in the same room, including two members of the United States Congress. Speaking of which, this occasion was a rare opportunity to see the truly human side of some of our elected representatives. You would never have confused them with politicians grandstanding for the evening news. They were speaking to their brethren-in-arms. In addition, this event was the largest attended in the four years that this writer has been covering it.

Our thanks to the Family Research Council for their hard work in organizing the conference, and giving us here at man with black hat the opportunity to participate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Peter Hollens with The Swingle Singers “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Peter Hollens takes the lead with The Swingle Singers, in this very contemporary a cappella rendering of a classic American folk spiritual from the early 19th century. Video production by Caleb Rexius.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

“We don’t call it ‘choice’ anymore, we call it ...”

Actually, they haven't decided yet.

Somewhere I read that one leader of the pro-abortion movement -- hey, around here, we call it what it is, okay? -- wants to get away from the use of the word "choice" when referring to abortion. It is not clear what term would be used to replace it. What is clear, at least according to TIME magazine, is that ...

... [t]he President's campaign mobilized Democratic voters and women around the issue of reproductive rights -- an effort that produced, according to some exit polls, the widest gender voting gap in history. But while the right to have an abortion is federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what circumstances is the purview of states. And at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing.

Forty years ago today, a decision of the Supreme Court, based on the testimony of a woman who later admitted to fabricating said testimony, became the "law of the land." And yet, even retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, long considered to be ambiguous on the matter of abortion, has conceded that Roe v Wade is "bad law." At some point, medical advances make the safe delivery of a premature fetus more of a possibility. Change the circumstances only slightly, and that child can be killed either in the womb by any one of several methods too horrible to contemplate, or just emerging from the womb, through partial-birth abortion, which even the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan labeled as "infanticide." What we have then, is a house of cards, one that will eventually fall of its own weight.

Jill Stanek has introduced yet again the annual “Ask Them What They Mean When They Say ‘Choice’ Day.” The campaign resorts to Facebook and other social media. I have to admit to a few friends who favor the legalization of "a woman's right to choose" what to do with what is ostensibly her own body, apparently with no other bodies involved, an ironic stance when you consider that, in most cases, this prerogative is the result of the loss of control of one's body; that is to say, the form of birth control of last resort. If they are reading this, I cannot hope that anything here will dissuade them, but I would ask them one thing, and one thing only.

If your mother wanted to abort you, and you could talk her out of it, what would you say?


Monday, January 21, 2013

A Prayer for Government

The following prayer was composed by John Carroll, first Archbishop of Baltimore, in 1791. John was a cousin of Charles Carroll of Maryland, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence.

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We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name. We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation. We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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An observation by our correspondent Tim Ferguson is worth nothing, that Chief Justice John Roberts has become the first man to administer the oath of office four times to the same President. It was necessary to fulfill the constitutional requirements yesterday at noon, as the 20th of January fell on a Sunday, and that the public recreation of the same take place today. Historically, republics tend to endure for little more than two centuries. Inasmuch as this is so, we have been blessed.

So far.

Friday, January 18, 2013

FAMW: “A little respect when you get home ...”

Yuma County Prosecutor William Katz is the most respectful man in America. Aside from being a Nazi totalitarian and a false accuser (or so we are told), he's actually a pretty nice guy, enough to rate him as our feature for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Just a little bit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Landfill Harmonic

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This one is from Adam Mordecai of, about a man from the slums of Cateura, Paraguay, by the name of Favio Chavez, who has a message: “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.”

Discover the possibilities in the next three and a half minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)

Everyone who works on or uses the Internet (including yours truly) owes a lot to this man. Today was his funeral.

In 2010 and 2011, Aaron Swartz downloaded a lot of academic documents from JSTOR (the online library of scholarly articles) with the intent to distribute them because he believed more information in more hands would make the world a better place. A noble idea, but the Department of Justice decided to make an example of him. Aaron faced 35 years in jail and $1 million in fines before he decided to commit suicide. Watch this moving talk from 2012 about how he helped stopped COICA and SOPA, two congressional bills that would have essentially created a great American firewall and made it easy to censor the Internet.

Writer and internet advocate Mischa Nachtigal has provided the above content, and has also furnished time-coded highlights of his friend's testimony. If you have 23 minutes to spare, if you use the internet (kinda like you are now), and you prefer that the government not be in your business any more than it absolutely has to, you owe it to Aaron, to Mischa, to say nothing of yourself, to give ear to listen.

Thanks, Mischa. Rest in peace, Aaron.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Plowing Through Monday

Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following Epiphany. This was when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work. John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:

The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.

Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, though, I'd rather be molly dancing.

What is that, you ask?

“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)

On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.

They could do worse.

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Plough Monday Edition)

Are we a nation ruled by laws, or has our government been taken over by a group of modern-day marquis and baronettes who simply pretend to govern, while robbing us blind? Bill Whittle likens the recent "fiscal cliff" crisis to kabuki theater. Find out how one person come out on top of it in spite of everything, courtesy of Pajamas Media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Conventional wisdom (and what your mama told you) notwithstanding, money can indeed by happiness, and we've got the data to prove it. Or something. (The Atlantic)

And speaking of what money can buy, here's proof that you can take some things with you, or at least have someone in the present life keep you updated. (The Telegraph)

Next, we go from dying to refusing to die. A dog in Texas who was found shot in the head and face with a pellet gun, stuffed in a garbage bag and abandoned, was released from a veterinary clinic following eye surgery paid for by a Facebook campaign. Let's hear it for social media! (Montgomery County Police Reporter)

In a non-related story on taking it with you, a man who drives his car into a pizza restaurant wants to order one to go while waiting for the ambulance. If I were him, I'd leave a really big tip. (KLKN-TV)

And finally, can a man with a tattooed face contend for the Presidency? America may be a ways off, but the Czech Republic is about to find out. (If we didn't show you here, you wouldn't believe it.) (NBC News)

And that all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, January 11, 2013

FAMW: Bath Salts?

Another video has gone viral lately, but here's the twist. It was produced by the United States Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and it's about the dangers of sniffing bath salts. Only when you go to the website do you find out that they're not kidding, and only when you click on the press release do you learn that the term is a euphemism for a synthetic amphetamine, one of a host of designer drugs hitting the streets in recent years.

But if you ignore all of that, and certain simulated portrayals of domestic violence, there's a quality of dark humor to the whole thing, which is why it's featured for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Or maybe it's a sign that yours truly is getting on in years.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Babes in Boyland

By now we've all heard (ad nauseum) about the Notre Dame vs Alabama football game this past weekend. (I'm still hearing about it at the office, from people who spent about as much time on a football field as me. That ain't sayin' much.) We've also heard about how ESPN commentator Brent Musburger went ballistic as Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama's A J McCarron, and (invariably) the reigning Miss Alabama USA, appeared on the screen.

“Wow, I'm telling you quarterbacks: You get all the good-looking women.”

Everyone thought this was tasteless and boorish, which it probably was. Many also thought that it bought into stereotypes about how star athletes always get the really attractive women, some of whom are (or so the story goes) a little short on intellect. Personally, I can't imagine where such Neanderthal notions originate, but let's go back about forty-some years and give it a try, shall we?

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Clarisse -- I'd love to use her real name, really I would -- started her first year at my Catholic high school, just as I was beginning my second. She was smart, beautiful, vivacious, and with all that, she was also the girl next door, if by "next door" you still meant the respectable part of the city where the school was situated, as opposed to the podunk town from which I was bussed every day. During my sophomore year, I thought she was unattainable, and so was content with a convivial and platonic friendship. By the following school year, I got past those limitations, and with good reason. The annual Mardi Gras dance was coming up, and when I asked her to be my date, she happily agreed. My high school was a shallow, artificial world, but to my adolescent mind, I was finally moving up in it.

In some respects, my high school was no different than any other in America. If you played intervarsity athletics, was reasonably good at it, was reasonably good looking, and wasn't a complete klutz around the ladies, you could pretty much write your own ticket on the social food chain. (You didn't even have to know how to dance. In the post-hippie, pre-disco era of the early 1970s, I'm not sure anyone knew.) It also helped that you brought honor and glory to the school, which paid off in alumni contributions to the athletic boosters club, and mentions in the daily newspaper. I would not have qualified for this elite caste, but Clarisse hung around with girls who did, in what amounted to a "jocks only" policy when it came to dating.

Now, the Mardi Gras was a time-honored tradition, brought to the school by the order of sisters who ran it, and whose motherhouse was in New Orleans. The event was preceded by the seniors electing a Court of Honor, consisting of two dozen senior men and women, from which a King and Queen were chosen. The other classes voted on attendants to the court. Clarisse made the grade, one of three girls and three boys in her class, the former escorted by any one of the latter. It was here that fate intervened. Clarisse had to break the bad news to me, that her social obligations to this event precluded being my date (which didn't seem to be a problem for others, as I recall), and my invitation was unceremoniously returned. Naturally, I was crushed. She did a great job of pretending to feel bad about it to my sister, who was her classmate. And there wasn't enough time left to ask someone else to be number two on your list. But the order and harmony of the status quo was restored, and all was right with the world, myopic though it may have been.

But take heart, dear reader, for the story had a happy ending. Clarisse ended up "going steady" with the guy who escorted her (who it turns out may have been a very distant cousin of mine), and they married shortly after graduation. Mr Storybook went on to teach at the high school for many years, as he and Mrs Storybook were often feted for their years of service to dear old Alma Mater.

Seven and a half years after leaving that cultural wasteland, I got the hell out of Dodge City, and except for reunions every ten years (where I manage never to run into those two), never looked back. In recent years, my old high school has had the audacity to recognize achievement in other fields of endeavor besides athletics, and with no small amount of enthusiasm. I wish I could congratulate them, but I think Huey Lewis and the News deserve the credit.

(What's that you ask, am I bitter? Why, do I look bitter?)

+    +    +

In the book of Proverbs, it is said that “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (31:30) You have to wonder if the Katherine Webbs of the world ever learn this the hard way, or if they just get tired of everyone telling them how pretty they are. What else can people say? “Hey, loved that term paper you wrote on quantum theory. You should get that published.”

They could also say nothing at all. Part of the reason that women wear head coverings in many cultures and through much of history, especially those who are married, is due to how sensitized they are to the unwanted attentions of men, preferring to save their beauty for someone more worthy, like, oh, their husbands, maybe. This is hardly an endorsement of that practice, so much as a reminder of why it would exist anywhere at all -- especially inside a Catholic church during Holy Mass; now that IS an endorsement! -- and how easily the base elements of our human nature, especially among the male of the species, can be easily provoked.

That being said, there are worse things that can happen to a woman than getting ogled by men, after voluntarily entering a beauty contest and subsequently dating the college football star, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Peter Gabriel “Shaking the Tree”

Time once again for (the triumphant return of) our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Peter Gabriel is one of the most eclectic and prolific artists in the world of popular music today. This is an excerpt from his 1993 “Secret World Live” tour, filmed in Modena, Italy. It won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.

The original 1989 music video of this number features the acclaimed Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N'Dour. In this performance, Gabriel is joined by American singer-songwriter Paula Cole ("Where Have All The Cowboys Gone," 1997). The performers dance in a circle as they sing the chorus.

“Souma Yergon, Sou Nou Yergon, We are shakin’ the tree.”

Monday, January 07, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (First-Of-The-Year Edition)

Diane Feinstein, Mayor Bloomberg and Sam Donaldson self-righteously denounce guns. Also, did you know that porn allegedly hurts short term memory? Following a brief holiday hiatus, we have this and more from the folks at Pajamas Media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

For those concerned about the loss of personal freedoms, and disregard for the rule of law and the Constitution, the town of Paragould, Arkansas, is off to a good start by imposing martial law. (CNN)

Speaking of imposing, a Federal Government employee has been formally reprimanded for ... well, read for yourself. (

Two robbers near Brisbane, Australia, tried to break into a jewelry store, and ended up at a KFC restaurant. Did they want fries with that? (

And ... in yet another case of law and order, three members of the Newton, Massachusetts Police Department were caught throwing eggs at the home of their superior. (MetroWest Daily News)

Finally, as the old year passes, we review some of the most overused or misused words in the English language these past twelve months. (The Atlantic Wire)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Christus Mansionem Benedicat!

The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (aka “Chalking the Door”)

At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.

+    +    +

We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":

Give the King your justice, O God, *
    and your righteousness to the King's son;

That he may rule your people righteously *
    and the poor with justice.

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
    and the little hills bring righteousness.

He shall defend the needy among the people; *
    he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
    from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
    like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
    there shall be abundance of peace
        till the moon shall be no more.

He shall rule from sea to sea, *
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

His foes shall bow down before him, *
    and his enemies lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
    and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.

All kings shall bow down before him, *
    and all the nations do him service.

For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
    and the oppressed who has no helper.

He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
    he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
    and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Long may he live!
    and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
        may prayer be made for him always,
            and may they bless him all the day long.

May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
    growing thick even on the hilltops; *
        may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
            and its grain like grass upon the earth.

May his Name remain for ever
    and be established as long as the sun endures; *
        may all the nations bless themselves in him
            and call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
    who alone does wondrous deeds!

And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
    and may all the earth be filled with his glory.


Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:

Lord God of Heaven and Earth, who hast revealed thine only-begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star: Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their love for others may truly reflect thy love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.

“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)


“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)

          C      M

“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)

          C      M      B

“Throughout the coming year ...”

20      C      M      B

“... and the many years to come.”

20      C      M      B      13

“In the name of the Father ...”

20  +  C      M      B      13

“and of the Son ...”

20  +  C  +  M      B      13

“... and of the Holy Spirit.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B      13

Everyone responds: “Amen.”

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  13

The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.

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For those who require a simpler form, there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Rensselaer, New York. It came in handy one year, when I was alone and the weather was particularly inclement, and I simply read from the Gospel of John as I inscribed over the door ...

In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)

and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)

and the Word was God. (inscribe +)

He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)

All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)

and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)

And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)

and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)

and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)

the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)

full of grace and truth. (inscribe 3)

Then with the Holy Water, I made the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” and calling it a night.

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Meanwhile, the day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, and pageants for the children. An example of the latter is seen here, performed by Iglesia Smirna Misionera, an Assembly of God congregation in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Oh, come on, you guys, click on it. These kids worked SO hard on this.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Christ-Mass: Twelfth Night

Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.

Old Christmas
    is past
Twelfth Night
    is the last

And we bid
    you adieu
Praise joy
    to the new.

(H/T to Steeleye Span.)

Christ-Mass: Day 12 (St Telesphorus/St John Neumann)

“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming ...”

In the traditional Roman calendar, Mother Church remembers the man elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later. The reformed Roman calendar honors the native of Bohemia who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.

Meanwhile, I found something I wrote on this day five years ago:

When I was growing up in a small town in Ohio, they had a unique way of disposing of used Christmas trees. They'd take them to some field at the edge of town, stack them in a big pile, and commemorate "Twelfth Night" with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." Of course, my parents didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen ...

These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. Besides, reading this week's edition of the old hometown paper, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality: "Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch."

Now that kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the gifts of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading them on your lawn or walking all over them?

Tomorrow night at Chez Alexandre, we will step out on to the porch and face the entrance. With a piece of chalk, the following will be inscribed over the door ...

20  +  C  +  M  +  B  +  13

...while saying these words out loud: "Christus Mansionem Benedicat! ... May Christ this dwelling bless!" The initials also stand for the names which tradition ascribes to the three wise men -- Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar.

Details tomorrow. Until then, stay tuned ...

Friday, January 04, 2013

Christ-Mass: Day 11 (St Elizabeth Ann Seton)

“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”

Today is the feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, the mother of the Nation's parochial school system, and patroness of Catholic schools. She was the first native-born American to be canonized a saint, by Pope Paul VI in 1975. From the original motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a branch house was established out west, known today as the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, based at Mount Saint Joseph-on-the-Ohio, located on the west side. This order did much to build not only the parochial school system in this part of the Midwest through their teaching apostolate, but the health care system as well, through the establishment of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1852.

Concerning the role of women Religious and the health care apostolate, it is an understatement to observe that much has changed in recent years. In light of the current health care legislation signed into law in the United States, and the capitulation by "leaders" of women religious orders, in forcing others to cooperate in acts against the Gospel of Life, let us pause for a moment to consider the irony.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Christ-Mass: Day 10 (St Genevieve)

“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping ...”

By now, the holiday hoopla has died down. The banks have reopened, the post office is delivering the mail again (along with the bills for those once-a-year expenses incurred in the past month), and everybody has schlepped back to work. Life is returning to what passes for normal. Meanwhile, both the Eastern and Western churches remember the French shepherd girl Saint Genevieve, who lived in the mid- and late- fifth century. Her sanctity was noted at a very early age by Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who consecrated her to God at the age of seven. Genevieve is patroness of the city of Paris, which has been saved through her intercession more than once, the first time from her contemporary, Attila the Hun.

Not too shabby.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Christ-Mass: Day 9 (The Holy Name of Jesus)

“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing ...”

The traditional Roman calendar associated this day with the Holy Name of Jesus -- that is, unless on a Sunday between the first and sixth of the month, don't ask me why. Historically, the observance of this feast has been all over the place until nearly one hundred years ago. The circumcision of a newborn male under Jewish law must take place eight days after the child's birth, at which time he is given his name. Small wonder, then, that the Gospel readings for both feasts in the traditional Roman calendar are the same. Some Western traditions, such as Anglican and Lutheran, celebrate both on the first of January. This year, for reasons mentioned above, the feast occurs today on the traditional calendar -- but tomorrow on the reformed calendar. Again, don't ask me why.

Once I heard a comedian pose this important theological question: “If Jesus was Jewish, why did He have an Hispanic name?” That occasion aside, it gives us occasion to consider that the name "Jesus" was not an uncommon one in His day. Brian Palmer writes for Slate:

Many people shared the name. Christ's given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. (Jesus comes from the transliteration of Yeshua into Greek and then English.) Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas from the period of Jesus' death. The name also appears 30 times in the Old Testament in reference to four separate characters -- including a descendant of Aaron who helped to distribute offerings of grain (2 Chronicles 31:15) and a man who accompanied former captives of Nebuchadnezzar back to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:2) ...

How would Christ have been addressed by those around him? Well, certainly not as "Mister Christ." In fact, "Christ" was not a name, but a title, from the Greek Khristós or "anointed one." The Hebrew word was Moshiach or "Messiah." He would have been known by His given name, and the name of His father -- Yeshua bar Yehosef or "Jesus Son of Joseph." In later centuries (or in present-day Iceland), He might have been addressed as "Jesus Josephson," but that's just a hunch. We know that He eventually left Nazareth of Galilee, the town of His childhood, for other parts of that country, as well as Samaria and Judea. In those places, He would have been just as likely addressed as Yeshua Nasraya or "Jesus of Nazareth." We know from Scripture that such was the inscription on the Cross, which gave both His name and His offense, in three languages: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (actually, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum" in Latin, "Ihsoûs ó Nazoraîos ó Basileùs tôn ’Ioudaìov" in Greek, and "Yeshua HaNazarei v Melech HaYehudim" in Hebrew). After all, a guy from a hick town like that would have been rather conspicuous in a high-falutin' place like Jerusalem, especially outside of the High Holydays.

The Scriptures also record him being addressed as "Jesus Son of David." A man would also have been known for his extended family; that is, his tribe or house, as in Yeshua ben David or "Jesus of the House of David." Or so I've read. But even though family lineage was everything in Jewish society, such an address was not as common in everyday use.

Or so I've read.

Devotion to the Holy Name has also been the inspiration for the National Association of the Holy Name Society. HNS chapters have been the basis for men's clubs in Catholic parishes for generations.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Christ-Mass: Day 8 (Circumcision/St Basil)

“On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking ...”

The world knows it as New Year's Day. Our holy Mother Church knows it by many names.

First and foremost, it is the “Octave-day” or eighth day of Christmastide. Such was its name in the earliest liturgical books, thus remembered as the day of Circumcision, when a son of Israel was marked according to the Law. (It hurts just thinking about it.) In both forms of the Roman Rite, the brief account from Luke is proclaimed:

At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (2:21)

In the reformed Missal, the day is primarily known as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. While appearing as a break in tradition, it is a reminder of the Marian emphasis of the Feast, as found even in the orations of the pre-conciliar Missal. It was the tradition in Rome, that the Pope would go to one of the many churches in the city, whichever was the "Station" for that particular feast -- in the case of this one, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

But wait, there is so much more...

In the East, today is known not only for the Circumcision, but as the Feast of Saint Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, and one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church. Today is when the Greeks would traditionally exchange gifts. For many years, when I couldn't meet with Paul for Christmas (and as he was raised in the Byzantine Rite of his mother), I would make an occasion of this day.

With all that arcane information, you still have to admit that four names for one day is a lot. And to think the year is just getting started.