Monday, April 29, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Almost May Day Edition)

If you really want to, you can watch Chelsea Clinton interview a gecko, or if you don't want to see why this woman couldn't get a meaningful job if it weren't for who her parents were and are, you can simply read the transcript, and hope to God she never enters politics.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Three men from the United Arab Emerites were expelled from Saudi Arabia for ... well, it's never happened to most of us, let's put it that way. (

There was this fisherman in Belarus who was trying to photograph a beaver. The beaver took exception. I am told the video is too horrible to watch. (USA Today)

A 16-year-old girl in Florida was arrested and expelled from her high school after what a friend called a "science project gone bad" resulted in a small explosion. And to think she worked so hard on that project. (WTSP-TV)

Finally, and speaking of science marching on, an enterprising shirt manufacturer is claiming that you can wear their wool button-down shirts for up to one hundred days without them ever needing to be washed. Hmmm ... (Gizmodo)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on (or what's left of it anyway), stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, April 26, 2013

George Glenn Jones (1931 - 2013)

One of the most prolific artists of country music died this morning, from complications related to irregular blood pressure. He was 81.

Born in a log cabin in Saratoga, Texas (a town outside of Beaumont), George got his first guitar when he was nine, and was playing for change on the streets shortly thereafter. From there he went on to local radio shows. His first recorded hit in 1955, “Why Baby Why” made it to number four on the country charts, the first of many in a recording career that included 119 singles under his own name, 68 albums, 26 collaborative albums, 24 compilation albums ... one could go on. In 1956, he became a member of the Grand Olde Opry.

It was particularly in later years that he was hailed as "the greatest living country singer," with unique facial characteristics that earned him the nickname “Possum.” But it was not only his distinctive voice that lent to his critical acclaim. In the tradition of Hank Williams and other country artists, Jones lived out the songs that he wrote. It was a life of hard living, hard drinking, drug addiction, bouts with the law, and stormy marriages. There were four of the latter, the first when he was 19, which lasted only a year. But he is best known for his third marriage, to country singer-songwriter Tammy Wynette, whom he wed in 1969. Despite a reputation as an abusive and irresponsible husband, their tribulations were often the inspiration for their duets, and a musical collaboration that far outlasted the marriage, which ended in divorce in 1975. Even his failure to show up for performances inspired the song “No-Show Jones.” What's more, his 1996 arrest for riding a lawn mower on an open road was parodied in the music video “Honky Tonk Song.” His cameo appearances in other country music videos also found him riding on a lawn mower.

But it was during his fourth marriage in 1983 to Jenny Johnson, that he cleaned up his act, and she was considered instrumental in his recovery from addiction. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, and was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. In 2012 he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. It was during this latter period that he recorded a song penned by Billy Yates and Mike Curtis entitled “Choices.”

I've had choices
Since the day that I was born
There were voices
That told me right from wrong
If I had listened
No I wouldn't be here today
Living and dying
With the choices I made

Among the many albums he recorded were collections of gospel hymns. Some might have thought him to be a hypocrite for this, but a man at his lowest on a Saturday night can still wish for his highest on a Sunday morning. Russell Moore speaks to this desperation of the heart in his First Things article.

He was the troubadour of the Christ-haunted South. The raw emotion, and even whispers of torture, in his voice can teach American Christianity much about the nature of sin and the longing for repentance ... This is not a man branding himself with two different and contradictory impulses. This was a man who sang of the horrors of sin, with a longing for a gospel he had heard and, it seemed, he hoped could deliver him. In Jones’ songs, you hear the old Baptist and Pentecostal fear that maybe, horrifically, one has passed over into the stage of Esau who, as the Bible puts it, “could not find repentance though he sought it with tears.”

For yours truly, there is a sadness that comes with the news of George Jones' passing, and a longing for days gone by. They were the days when a singer who billed himself as a country or country-western artist, was not of the comfortable suburban middle-class life, that permeated themes of the "countrypolitan" sound in the 1970s, nor the over-styled, stereotypical exurban refined redneck with designer jeans that populates the airwaves today, but one who was truly without pretense, without pre-packaging, who was genuinely “born and bred, cornbread fed.” That generation is passing, one at a time, and we will never see their like again.

If the failings of a man that were so well-published are to be forgiven him, let it serve as a reminder to us all, of the reality of the Divine Mercy, and our own need to call upon Him for ourselves.

FAMW: Rags Against The Machine!

Chris Hadfield is an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency (Agence Spatiale Canadienne), currently assigned to the International Space Station. Here he performs a simple experiment designed by two students from Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia, who won a national science contest held by the Agency, with their experiment on surface tension in space using a wet washcloth. Some serious stuff that would blow your mind sufficiently, to qualify for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Annette Funicello Theatre: Episode 2 “Annette Meets Jet”

Tonight is our next installment of our series in honor of the late Annette Funicello, in our continuing saga about a country girl who moves to the big city, where she learns about love, friendship, and the excess self-indulgence of the thoroughly modern teenager in postwar America.

In this our second episode, Annette is as fresh as frost on the pumpkin, as she is schooled by her Aunt Lila on which spoon to use for eating grapefruit, and how to hold a fork. She also makes her first friend in the city, in the form of another girl from the country named Jet (Judy Nugent). Meanwhile, the evil Uncle Archie contemplates a nefarious plot to seal our young heroine's fate.

This episode originally aired on The Mickey Mouse Club on February 12, 1958.

Next week: “The Invitation.”

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Madness “Our House”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Sometimes I still dream of the little house in Ohio where I grew up, but it always appears as it did before we added on to the back of it. But lately ...

Madness was a prominent new wave/ska band in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their featured hit from late in 1982 peaked at number five in the UK, and was their biggest hit in the States, reaching number seven in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. And while they had a string of hits in the UK over a period of twenty years, they were always considered a "one hit wonder" here in America, which is too bad. The video is barely that of a ska band, but carries over the spirited nature of the genré just the same.

The band performed this number for the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic games, amidst of an elaborate light show with a dance chorus.

Our house it has a crowd
There's always something happening
And it's usually quite loud
Our mum she's so house-proud
Nothing ever slows her down
And a mess is not allowed

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...

You get the idea.

Friday, April 19, 2013

FAMW: Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz

Forty students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance took a classical approach to the flashmob as they flashwaltzed Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers at the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower in Jerusalem. Doctors, patients and passers-by joined in the fun. Yes, we do love our flashmobs here at man with black hat, and wouldn't miss a chance to show one off, especially when it comes to this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

"Flashwaltz." That's a new one.

A Most Expeditious Saint

Today, the Roman church celebrates the feast of Saint Expeditus.

Often variously named Elpidius or -- you guessed it -- Expedite, he was a Roman centurion stationed in Armenia who was martyred in AD 303 under the Diocletian persecution. Legend has it that, on the day of his conversion, the Devil appeared in the form of a crow and called out "Cras! Cras!" (Latin for "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!") The soldier crushed the bird on the ground beneath his foot while saying, “No, I will be a Christian today!” His image shows a Greek soldier with a crow underfoot, near a scroll with the word "Cras" as he holds up a cross bearing the word "Hodie" which is Latin for "today."

As with many saints of that period, little is known of him. Indeed, his name may not actually be his own, but an inscription that appeared on a box of relics saying to "expedite" its shipment to its destination. He is invoked against pro-CRAS-tination (Get it?), and in favor of emergencies. He is the patron of the Republic of Molossia, merchants, navigators, computer programmers, and yes, even computer hackers!

Expeditus is honored with a great parade in San Paulo, Brazil, and is also venerated in Chile, Reunion Island, as well as in Creole voodoo magic, not to mention African folk magic or "hoodoo."

For a saint who may never have existed, he certainly gets around, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Annette Funicello Theatre: Episode 1 “The Newcomer”

As promised last week, we now bring you a special series in honor of the late Annette Funicello, who in her final years worked to raise both awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS), and funding to eventually find a cure. This is first of nineteen episodes about a country girl who moves to the big city, where she learns about love, friendship, and the excess self-indulgence of the thoroughly modern teenager in postwar America.

In our first episode, little Annette McCleod of Beaver Junction, Nebraska, appears with suitcase in hand at the door of her only surviving relatives; an anal-retentive professor Uncle Archie (Richard Deacon) and his sister (huh???) Aunt Lila (Sylvia Field). This episode originally aired on The Mickey Mouse Club on February 11, 1958.

Next week: “Annette Meets Jet.”

Art-For-Art’s Sake Theatre: Cleve Francis “Love Light”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Singer-songwriter Cleve Francis is one of the very few African-Americans of the country music genre. His first music video, “Love Light,” was released with the recording in 1990. The song made it to number 52 on the Billboard Country Music charts.

Francis went on to release three albums on the Liberty label between 1992 and 1994.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The View From Boston

I could show you some great footage here, but I won't. But I will tell you what Mister Rogers would have said.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

So I looked for them. They weren't on YouTube. Not yet, at least. But Business Insider found plenty of heroes who came from out of nowhere, even citing a Google Doc that listed people opening up their homes or helping those who were stranded.

We have room two double beds available and a twin bed in my son's room. We are on the #39 bus line. Pick it up on the back side of the Prudential Center.

Google even has a "people finder." If you want to find someone, or want to be found, look here.

If this story were to be accompanied by a video, it would have been tonight's interview on ABC News with former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, who urged people to do two things; be aware of your surroundings when in a public place, especially a crowd, and ... go on about your business.

In other words, like those signs at the Battle of Britain.

We also have to learn not to take people like Wolf Blitzer too seriously. Ed Morrissey explains why.

Scout’s Honor: A Note of Caution

Over the next week, we here at man with black hat will be bringing you up to speed on an issue which has consumed our research efforts, at the cost of publishing the usual volume of work. It concerns efforts in the past year by the Boy Scouts of America to exclude what have been termed “avowed homosexuals” from its membership. This time last year, the National Council BSA announced the results of a two-year study, as a component of reaffirming their policy. In the space of less than a year, outside pressure and further withholding of corporate donations -- don't kid yourselves, fellas, it's always been about the money -- has caused them to reconsider. With the recent completion of a semi-annual “Voice of the Scout” survey which focused on issues related to the membership policy, a resolution is being formed by the BSA Executive Board for release later this month, and to be voted on by 1400 delegates from all parts of the nation at the annual BSA National Meeting in Texas. The vote will be completed on the 23rd of May.

Meanwhile, we have this statement from Family Watch International, reprinted here in its entirety without permission or shame.

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As many of you know, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is in the closing days of a massive outreach effort to gauge reactions to the proposed policy change to allow openly homosexual boys and men to participate in scouting. BSA leadership says they have sent out nearly 1.5 million questionnaires to volunteers and scout alumni posing some hypothetical questions about allowing openly homosexual individuals to participate in scouting.

We have seen reports indicating that in at least some areas of the country, the response rate has been relatively low.

We and others who have looked at the questionnaire believe it is not adequate to accurately gauge the concern that may be felt by members of the scouting community because it does not inform the respondent of all the implications of changing this policy. It focuses almost entirely on the religious or ethical concerns that have been expressed about the policy, and does not look at the serious implications it would have for the health and welfare of vulnerable scouts who may be questioning their own sexual orientation as part of the normal maturation process.

We have laid these concerns out in more detail with some documentation in the letter Family Watch sent to the national scouts back in February. I have attached that letter below.

In summary, the critical point is that no credible research exists to support the commonly held belief that homosexuals are “born that way.” Instead, there is overwhelming and growing evidence that same-sex attraction is caused largely by environmental factors and the experiences of boys who, for a variety of reasons, are particularly vulnerable to developing it. Clearly, the scouting program can be a particularly strong influence in a young man’s life because it is so effective at teaching not just values and morals, but correct principles and survival skills as well.

If the BSA organization allows openly homosexual men to be scout leaders, they would be setting them up as acceptable role models. This change in leadership could be a significant factor in whether some of these vulnerable young men develop same-sex attraction with all the documented mental and physical health consequences that result from acting out on that attraction. Allowing openly homosexual boys to be scouts can have a similar influence on some of their fellow scouts.

It is not clear whether BSA’s national leadership has considered the health and welfare implications this proposed policy change could have on vulnerable scouts. We have asked whether the leadership has considered it, but they refuse to answer. From their recent statements about the proposed policy change, and especially from conversations we have had with scouting volunteers and professionals, it appears to us that they have not fully assessed the impact of their proposed policy.

If you are involved in scouting and received a questionnaire from the national scout office, we urge you to answer it. If you have already returned your questionnaire, or you are a concerned parent, grandparent or just a friend of scouting, then we urge you to contact the national scout office before the listening period closes on Friday, April 5th and express your concern about the apparent lack of any health assessment the proposed policy would have on vulnerable scouts.

In brief, we suggest that you urge BSA not to adopt this proposed policy change without full, comprehensive and open consideration of the health and welfare implications of allowing openly homosexual men and boys to participate in scouting. You can send your comments to the scouts here. You may wish to include some or all of the additional specific concerns we have outlined in our letter to the scouts attached below.

This is an important issue -- one that has significant implications for the health and welfare of countless scouts. Because of the policy’s fundamental implications for the historic mission of scouting, it has serious implications for the future of scouting as well. There has never been a time when we have had a greater need for the kind of strong young men that scouting has proven so effective in developing.

It would be a major loss if scouting is severely damaged by this poorly researched proposed policy.


Sharon Slater

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Future reports in the next two weeks will concern critical issues related to the matter at hand, a survey of various organizations established to uphold the current policy, the disingenuous nature of various aspects of the conversation as adversely affected by the "culture wars," all with an analysis based upon, among other things, nearly twenty years as a youth and adult member of the BSA, including the distinctions of Eagle Scout, as well as the Order of the Arrow. Stay tuned ...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jonathan Harshman Winters III (1925-2013)

One of the most hilarious comedians in America, renowned for his unscripted deadpan humor (and one of the comedic influences of yours truly), Jonathan Winters died yesterday evening of natural causes at his home in Montecito, California, surrounded by family and friends. The native of Dayton, Ohio was 87. He was preceded by his wife of over sixty years, Eileen Schauder, and is survived by his two children. In this scene from the early 1970s, Winters plays true to form as a Midwestern hayseed at a Dean Martin roast.

(Hey, I'm from the Midwest, and descended from a long line of hayseeds. I can say that.)

FAMW: “When I Grow Up”

What do you want to be when you grow up? Until you do, you can imagine what it would be like to try, while watching a cartoon character go at it, with the convenience of your mobile device. “Weird Al” Yankovic has authored a New York Times best-selling children's book with the above title, and is now available as an interactive application for your iPad, iPhone and/or iPod Touch. See a preview of this little adventure for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Guess who's getting one for his iPhone. Go ahead, guess.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Beatles “Please Please Me”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

On this day in 1970, Paul McCartney officially announced his departure from The Beatles, citing business disagreements. But only seven years and about two months before -- to be exact, on February 11, 1963 -- the four lads from Liverpool assembled at the Abbey Road studios in London and, twelve hours and £400 later, had their first album, Please Please Me, completed. The details of his historic event in recording history are cited in a recent article in Rolling Stone.

In those days, 14 songs were the standard number on a long-playing record. So the Beatles entered Abbey Road that winter morning knowing that their task was to churn out the additional 10 songs. It was a job for which they were uniquely well-suited ... [and] the Beatles' producer, George Martin, sought simply to capture the band's live energy, to turn a staid studio – previously known for recordings made there by the London Symphony Orchestra and Peter Sellers – into an annex of the sweaty, sepulchral Cavern Club.

Although they were together as Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, and Starr, for less than a decade, their work is never dated, and wins a new generation of followers, even the children and grandchildren of those who screamed their hearts out in the early years. The first video clip is from a 1964 concert in Washington, DC. The second featured Paul himself and his road band (still playing his revered Hofner bass), in a scene from his 2006 DVD, “The Space Within Us.”

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Annette Joanne Funicello (1942-2013)

What little boy could possibly forget the girl with the big ... uh, reputation on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s? Annette Funicello passed away yesterday, from complications related to multiple sclerosis. She was 70 years old.

Born to an Italian-American family in Utica, New York, that moved to California when she was four years old, our little starlet first made her mark on the aforementioned children's television show in 1955, when she was only twelve. One thing led to another, including those ridiculous "beach party" movies in the early 1960s co-starring Frankie Avalon. There were several of them, all pretty much alike. Later she became a spokeswoman for Skippy peanut butter. In 1992, she disclosed her MS to the public after several years of hiding it, and then only to combat rumors that she was suffering from ... alcoholism?

This video clip is a scene from her cameo appearance in the 1968 pseudo-psychadelic movie, Head, no doubt having established a reputation for experience with pointless excuses for movies. But we know better, don't we? Our little Mouseketeer used to appear in stories with a discernible plot. Stay tuned to this part of the blogosphere for our short-run series, Annette Funicello Theatre, beginning next week. Until then, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (1925-2013)

The only female ever to serve as prime minister of the United Kingdom is dead at the age of 87. Many tributes have been written about her during this day, but this writer found the most inspiration in the following statement from Hillsdale College President Lawrence Arnn:

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Lady Thatcher, born Margaret Roberts in 1925, was one of the most important and beneficial statesmen of the twentieth century. When she came to power in 1979, her nation was held in the grip of unions that had command of the largest political party in the state. They used that power to shut down industries and even sections of the country at will to make employment demands. Rather than resist, the government would collude in crippling strikes. Margaret Thatcher was elected with a promise to stop these practices, and in a series of dramatic confrontations in her first year she was successful. She did not seek, she said, to adjust the power from labor to capital, but rather to return the government to serving the whole people and the public interest.

In 1982, she sent British forces to war against the junta in Argentina, which had invaded the Falkland Islands, a British protectorate. Britain won that war with the help of the United States and its president, her friend, Ronald Reagan. The Falklands are in dispute between Britain and Argentina today, and the current administration in Washington is less friendly to Britain. The people of the Falklands, whenever they are asked, still indicate in overwhelming numbers that they wish to remain as they are.

The only statue of Lady Thatcher in North America stands on the Hillsdale College campus. She visited the campus in 1994 and spoke at college events on several occasions. We are proud to have known her. At our spring convocation on Thursday we will say prayers of thanksgiving for her life and service.

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Lady Thatcher is survived by two children; journalist Carol Thatcher and businessman Mark Thatcher, and two grandchildren by her son Mark.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes are removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. In the traditional Roman calendar, it was officially known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It was also popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the Eastern churches, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I already thought Confession did that anyway. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for the short version.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, culminating in his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Week of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

The problem with this response is that it belies the specific character of the Paschal Feast itself, and by extension, the octave which follows it.

For two millennia, the Easter season, particularly the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the resurrection. In the Eastern churches, where rules of fasting and abstinence have retained their traditional severity, the requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the extension of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the greater part of the novena is devoted to chanting thus: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical year, the purpose of which is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, in light of the timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. That said, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67). And while accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year, as discussions of a "reform of the reform" of our sacred worship continue in earnest.

After all, even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the resurrection is enough to give pause, in light of the "big picture."

We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Roger Joseph Ebert (1942-2013)

One of the two greatest film critics of all time has passed away after an eleven-year battle with thyroid cancer. He was a few months shy of 71.

As movie reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, Roger Ebert and his counterpart at the Chicago Tribune, Eugene Kal “Gene” Siskel (1946-1999), hosted a popular television program, Opening Soon at a Theater Near You, later known as Sneak Previews, and later still as Siskel and Ebert At The Movies, from 1975 until Siskel's passing in 2000.

Roger once described his relationship with Gene:

Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks. Strike one, and the other would pick up the same frequency. When we were in a group together, we were always intensely aware of one another. Sometimes this took the form of camaraderie, sometimes shared opinions, sometimes hostility.

... resulting in a love-hate relationship (or at least the pretense of one) that is the focus of a tribute at

As he knew the end was near, this was Roger's final blog entry, written earlier this week:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

Movie critics on television have long been best described as the comic relief characters of a local or network news team or morning show, wearing their personality quirks on their sleeves. Then along come two regular guys from Chicago that look as if they might be your neighbors, and proceed to redefine their own profession. Yes, we still have court jesters for movie critics, but only because only Siskel and Ebert could ever have been Siskel and Ebert. And the cinematic world is poorer for their loss.

But we'll still save them the aisle seats, don't you think?

Or don't you?