Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sometimes you feel like a nut ...

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

And speaking of food ...

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

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

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

Personally, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this feast than to bake a cake out of something that says "Peter Paul," unless the gang at Fisheaters has a better idea.

But hey, that's just me.

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

FAMW: The Lutheran Satire “How To Be Arrogant”

Ever wonder about things from a Lutheran perspective? No, not those Lutherans. This is about those of the more-conservative-about-everything-than-the-other-guys Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Nah, me neither.

But I did manage to stumble across this today. It might be presumed to portray a conflict with the desire for unity and communion, hence the sad ending. But according to the Satirist himself: “He's sad because the lady is pretty and he wants to take her to go see ‘Fast Five,’ but she returns not his love.” Yeah, that used to happen to me a lot, so I can relate. And you can too, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Sure beats listening to Garrison Keillor, especially in the last few years since he started talking about politics and becoming so ... uh, you know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Art-For-Arts-Sake Theatre: 5 Second Films “Missing”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Remember the previous incarnation of this series, namely “Five Second Theatre”? Do ya? HUH??? Well, the folks at are still at it, so here's one of them. It'll only take ... a few seconds.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

No More Roman Holiday?

Reports are coming out of Rome, that Pope Francis has called an emergency meeting of Cardinals who oversee the various departments (Sacred Congregations, et cetera) of the Roman Curia to discuss the future thereof. This is being interpreted by a number of Vatican watchers as heralding a major shakeup of the Vatican bureaucracy, such as was anticipated to happen in short order under this pontificate. Right now, the only source we have is Michael Voris reporting from ChurchMilitant.TV. We'll know more soon enough.

Stay tuned ...

Monday, June 24, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Nativity of St John the Baptist Edition)

Here we have Megyn Kelly reporting on a man who goes ballistic at a Wendy's drive-thru window (without his car) because they gave him a cheeseburger when he ordered a hamburger. After his tirade, we get to see Megyn Kelly again. Don't you love happy endings?

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Speaking of civility, someone seems to think that Canadians are acting more like Americans, and that Americans are developing attitudes like Canadians, but not exactly. Or something. (Globe and Mail)

In a related story of personal preferences, a new poll shows that Americans prefer dogs to cats by more than 30 points. It neglects to mention whether or not cats even care, which they probably don't. (Public Policy Polling)

The same study also revealed the least popular choice for a pet, which a woman found for herself in a bag of potatoes at a Walmart in North Huntington, Pennsylvania. (WTAE-TV)

Something else that may or may not be popular, depending on how it turns out for you, is where to spend the next apocalypse. The perfect choice, if you can afford it, is near Achiston, Kansas. (Fox News)

Finally, if you prefer happier endings (with or without Megyn Kelly), watch this video showing five men catching a little girl as she fell from a five-story building in China's Zhejiang province. (BBC)

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Now We Are Eleven

This little corner of the Catholic blogosphere turned eleven years old today, but why the hell should you care?

Admit it, people. Life in the Catholic blogosphere has been rather boring of late, or at least predictable. How many times can you watch my close personal friend Mark Shea pick on somebody and get two hundred combox addicts taking to the ramparts, or Rorate Caeli most of whose contributors show their courage of conviction by not using their real names uncover yet another excuse to whine about a pope who won't do the Papal Mass in the traditional form even though no one is alive who knows how, or Michael Voris who never returns my calls spend eight minutes saying something that others could have said in three minutes -- about three decades ago, or some other "mommie blogger" who doesn't exactly move in the same circles as yours truly brag about her dream boat of a husband who probably sits there scratching himself and reading the paper wondering when the hell dinner's gonna be ready? Not too much to get excited about, dear minions.

I mean, yeah, we got a new pope and all that, but really! When I start reading drivel from the Catholic celebrity circuit, in the form of some neophyte barely out of his baptismal robes ...

"Today, the Holy Father appeared at the papal audience hall, and sat in one of the seats towards the back before giving his address. What is he trying to tell us about humility?"

I just want to shake them into some form of alignment and tell them ...

He's trying to tell us that he's seventy-six years old, has two hip replacements, one working lung, and he's really f@#$ing tired, you poncy schoolboy!!!

... but I never really get that chance.

The rest of you might be taken in by those innocent puppy-dog looks and that unpretentious wave to the crowd from the balcony, but I'm not fooled. As a Jesuit provincial in Argentina, he ruled with what one priest called "an iron fist." And when he's not kissing babies or setting a poor example with liturgical norms and making every other conscientious parish priest look and feel stupid, he speaks of sin and the Devil with a bluntness that would warm the cockles of any Lefebvrite's heart. Who knows, maybe we'll get to see what His Holiness does to clean up the Roman Curia. We can watch the heads of insolent paper-hangers roll down the Vatican steps. That's when I'll be impressed. And you'll all be wetting yourselves. Until then, I'll miss my Papa Benny if I want to.

Meanwhile, things have been kind of quiet here at the Black Hat Corral. At my day job, we just got done moving a makeshift video production studio back into the real one in the renovated headquarters building, and I was more or less put in charge of that. (Actually, they only renovated about half of it, and slapped a fresh coat of paint on the other half. Long story. Let's just say the midterm elections caused a lowering of expectations, okay?) After thirty years as a professional graphic designer, or as they call it, a "visual information specialist," I'm still getting used to being what is called an “audiovisual production specialist” (which became official in my personnel file about three weeks ago). But the fact is, I had gone about as far as I could go in my now-former profession, and when dealing with the issues of midlife, it was either a career change, or buying a high-performance automobile that I really couldn't afford.

Instead, I got a 2010 Honda Element about two months ago, essentially a compact miniature SUV with four-wheel drive, manufactured in my home state of Ohio. The model was discontinued in 2011, but I wanted one anyway. I couldn't find one with a sunroof, but I did find one with an overhead rack. And I love the way those big-@$$ doors open wide for light hauling, and how I can sit tall in the saddle. And it's silver, as in “Hi, ho, Silver!” Get it?

Last month I did a piece on the recent change in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America. It got more attention than I usually get, but the response was still less than remarkable. Then that guy who claims to showcase "the best in Catholic blogging" posted links to just about every other dilletante's piece on the subject, most of whom wouldn't know a sheepshank from a sheet bend. But find someone who is not only Catholic, but actually belongs to the Boy Scouts of America, and who might know what the hell is actually going on? No, that would be w-a-a-a-a-a-y too outside the box for this astute audience. Then there was that piece I did two weeks ago on the Sacred Heart. That's the sixth consecutive year I've posted that particular story, but it hardly got a notice until this year, when my new close personal friends at posted it at the top of their page. I got 1344 visits to my site that day! After eleven years, that is an all-time one-day record. My piece on the Latin Mass remains my biggest hit, but even that one only got about eight or nine hundred visits the first day. (Only? Geez!)

So, as I contemplate finally attending the annual Catholic New Media Conference in Boston this year, on the chance that someone won't get up in front of several hundred people and tell me little more than the obvious, I have to ask myself this burning question: What the hell is the matter with you people?

Thankfully, I have my answer.

Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof. I asked Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis firm Chartbeat ... [his] data shows that readers can’t stay focused. The more I type, the more of you tune out. And it’s not just me. It’s not just Slate. It’s everywhere online. When people land on a story, they very rarely make it all the way down the page. A lot of people don’t even make it halfway. Even more dispiriting is the relationship between scrolling and sharing. Schwartz’s data suggest that lots of people are tweeting out links to articles they haven’t fully read. If you see someone recommending a story online, you shouldn’t assume that he has read the thing he’s sharing.

That means that just under half of you have made it this far. And that the rest of you have abysmally short attention spans.

Hopefully some of you made it this far with other articles as well. This past year has seen our most popular work. Last fall saw two of them. “The Latin Mass: Why You Can’t Have It” remains our perennial champion, pleasing so many who are devoted to the traditional form of the Roman Mass (except for those pansies at Rorate Caeli, who know that the only way to accomplish anything is through superior posturing and incessant bitching). It was followed shortly thereafter by a revised version of a piece on the history of women and the diaconate that I did years ago, that was hidden in the recesses of the EWTN Online Library, until “Deaconess: A Rose By Any Other Name” hit the Catholic blogosphere. Suddenly there was a guy who knew the whole story. For once.

Were it not for the success of the two pieces just mentioned, this venue may have been shut down for a forty-day sojourn in the virtual desert, if not permanently. But fate, and just the right topics at just the right times, intervened.

And so, we shall press on for another year, with material too original for the average blog reader, some with complex subject matter, multi-syllabic words, and without pictures of nuns riding on surfboards via Photoshop. There will be one or two more stories on the Boy Scout situation, now that those in upper echelons realize the size of the egg they've just laid, and are in full damage-control mode. You'll learn how that's shaping up, what other alternatives are in the works, both Catholic and otherwise, and why yours truly has not abandoned the BSA just yet. (Yes, there's a reason.) There may be at least one more significant piece on the state of Catholic worship, as well as what my son Paul is up to. We might even do a political piece, just to see if anyone at the National Security Agency has enough time to kill to read this. But if they don't, it's just as well. This writer has all the fame he can handle at the moment.

“Mommy, there’s that guy with the black hat that we see in church standing next to the priest. Is he a deacon or something?”

And so it goes.

FAMW: The Beach Boys “I Get Around” (Behind the Lip Sync)

Summer's here, and unless you live in southern Ohio as did yours truly did back in the day, it's time to hit the beach. Ever wonder what The Beach Boys really sounded like on television while lip-syncing to their own recordings? Well, here's your big chance, courtesy of Mrs Darwin. See if you can get all the way through it without going completely nuts, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Surf's up.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Brad Paisley “Beat This Summer”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

You can tell we love Brad Paisley here at the old Black Hat Corral, yeah, you right? “Beat This Summer” is the name of the second single release from last March, from his latest album Wheelhouse, as well as that of his current tour. We sure wish he could have played for the BSA National Jamboree this year, instead of those other losers who ended up backing out, even after the BSA made a concession to the latter with ... well, more on that later.

Right now, let's hit the boardwalk.

Monday, June 17, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Post-Father’s Day Edition)

As I stumbled onto this video of Bill Whittle from April of 2012, I was thankful for two things. One was that, for all its faults, the Fairfax County Public School system does manage to raise the bar high enough for its students, to avoid the ire of those who pay some of the highest property taxes in America. The other thing is that even my less-than-thirty-year-old son dumps on his own generation for being this shallow.

Now then, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Commuters from New Jersey to Manhattan got on the highway to hell recently, as a 40-minute bus ride became two-and-a-half hours. (

So, you're disabled, you're going to Disney World, and you'd like to earn some throwing-around money while you're there. Have we got a plan for you! (NBC News)

Not long ago, we reported on the prospect of a flying car in mass production. But if the price is too rich for your blood, we found the next best thing out of the Czech Republic. (ABC News)

We also reported lately of a woman who read her high-school sweethearts letters dating back to World War II. Well, imagine someone finding a whole stack of letters from that part of history, and then finding the writer's family. (

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

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Today I distributed my Father's Day piece from two years ago entitled “Dad” to the usual suspects.

The best thing I can say about my Dad, is not only that he was a great father, but that he was a great father in spite of himself. I cannot ask more of a man than that …

One of them posted the link thereto, and I got over 500 visits today, which is about as much as I get in about four days -- weekdays, mind you. (H/T to New Advent.) C S Lewis once said he wrote the things that he wished others would write. I try to do likewise. Most writers will compose either a glowing encomium or a bitter screed. Neither would do justice to my father's story, so I simply wrote the truth. He was an imperfect man, who only reached perfection by Grace, in a life that just as easily could have turned out much differently, but for a decision made at an early age. A pedestal would have been too much even for him.

Since that time, he has passed into eternity, so here's what happened next.

Feb 20 2012: Paul Andrew Alexander (1925-2012)

Feb 29 2012: The Long and Reverent Farewell

Mar 05 2012: Random Thoughts on a Requiem

Mar 21 2012: A Month’s Mind

Feb 20 2013: Altare Privilegiatum

That's my Dad in the picture to the right, from his days in seminary. He would have been eighteen-and-a-half in the spring of 1944. By this time, he would have already received tonsure (the ritual cutting of a lock of the hair, symbolizing admission to candidacy), allowing him the privilege of wearing the cassock outside of ceremonial duties. He would leave the seminary two years later.

Closer to the present, today's homily was about fathers and fatherhood. As master of ceremonies for the Latin Mass today, my place was near the celebrant, which included being seated near the pulpit, so if I had a problem keeping my composure, it would have been hard to miss.

Meanwhile, my son decided to post his own tribute to his dad.

My dad's greatest gift to me in the past year was conceding, at last, that I'm smarter than he was at my age and am on track to lap him soon.

… which is not quite what happened. I should explain.

My son recently graduated from the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design, with a BFA in Interactive Media and Game Development, and a GPA of 3.4. Thirty-five years earlier, I graduated from an equally-über-prestigious program at the University of Cincinnati, with a BS in Graphic Design, and a GPA of 3.0. I simply pointed out that he did better than I did, which is even more remarkable when you consider that his high school GPA was … well, not so remarkable. But somehow, possibly from the after effects of an alcohol-and-drug-induced adolescence (so it's not really his fault, you see), this observation was embellished to take its present form.

So, we'll be having another one of those little talks when he gets back to DC next month. You see, you never stop being a father, especially when some punk-ass kid never stops being a little twit. But he's my little twit, and I love him for it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

FAMW: The Wikipedia in the ’80s

The past has always had visions of the future, and when you look at the present from the point of view of the past, the future is the present. Or something. Back when this writer first had cable television in the mid-1980s, there was talk of being able to attach a keyboard to the device and access various and sundry online services. That did not quite happen, but if it had, it probably would have looked like this scenario, a feature of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Raintown “If This Was A Love Song”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Raintown is a country music duo (which only looks like a quintet at the moment) from Glasgow, Scotland, consisting of Paul Bain and Claire McArthur, and whoever else is tagging along in the studio or on tour. The latter includes Stevie Lawrence, who plays the Irish bouzouki in this video, and has been known to do the same for ... the Red Hot Chili Peppers (duuuude!). You can add a certain amount of light and shade with just a duo with tight harmonies, and without a lot of overdone instrumentation.

Now, go ahead, "make me cry."

Monday, June 10, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (St Margaret of Scotland Edition)

We need a palate cleanser and it was either this, via 2Bucks Entertainment, or the report on the nine-year-old in Brooklyn who slammed a door on a robber’s arm, grabbed his gun, and fired at him to chase him out of his home. Yes, it makes for a good story, but it also reminds us of the sad reality, that alpha males are born, not made.

Meanwhile, among the beta males of planet Earth:

Hillary Clinton began using Twitter today. "Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD ..." Admitting your obsession with pantsuits is the first step to recovery. (AP)

A seventeen-year-old kid got hit by a car, flipped over, landed on his feet, and walked away with the whole thing on video. Not to mention ... Twitter. (

Love is in the air, as a woman discovers that her mysterious online boyfriend is actually her ex-husband. So now he's a stalker, is that it? (

Speaking of guns, in Texas, you can shoot anyone trespassing in your home at night, even if it's a hooker who took your money without, uh, completing the transaction. (San Antonio News-Express)

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

Friday, June 07, 2013

FAMW: National Donut Day

Today is National Donut Day, celebrated every first Friday in June. This was the report on ABC News (the least biased of the "Big Three" if that means anything), of the day when we remember the contributions of the Salvation Army providing coffee and donuts at aid stations behind the Western Front during the first World War. Or something. But we're not here to remember a church that is not the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ -- no offense, guys, just sayin' -- but rather, to provide the necessary palate cleanser that is this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

In Corde Jesu

Today, Catholics of the Western tradition celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life, than this feast, occurring on Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier feast when a Novena to the Sacred Heart would begin, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

“Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love.” (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” To say the least.

But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. It is from the series' sixth season, and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18). It originally aired on April 18, 1999. It seems there were people being murdered by their hearts being removed by hand. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) visited a Catholic church, and coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this unsavory fellow who explains the story behind the image to her. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

I often come here to look at this painting. It’s called “My Divine Heart” after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story ... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary ... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart ... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand.

His account portrays an almost sensuous quality to the Saint's reaction to this vision, in a way that one might rarely hear or read anywhere else. And just when we thought the influence of Christendom had faded from the popular culture (unless you include images created in tattoo parlors). Hope breeds eternal ...

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole she-bang, just in case it makes a comeback.

It could happen.

POSTSCRIPT: The above is published every year at this time. Some things need never be improved upon. And with that, we give a Tip of the Black Hat to the hundreds of readers of for being here, especially for the first time. And while you're here, you know all those Catholics who have been writing about that Boy Scout thing lately? Well, how about something from a Catholic who's actually ... oh, I dunno, IN Scouting??? Click here.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Paul McCartney “Coming Up”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature. Let's make this one a double.

“Coming Up” is a song written by Paul McCartney, and is the opening track on his second solo album McCartney II. With the album's release in 1980, the song rose to number two on the charts in the UK in just three weeks. Of particular interest is the music video, shown here with Spanish subtitles (and somewhat poor quality, as a better quality version is no longer to be found), with Paul playing ten different roles, and his wife Linda playing two, all through the magic of post-production.

Our second video takes the viewer behind the scenes, with Paul narrating the making of this video, and the identities of those being portrayed. This video is off the bonus disc of the 2011 remaster of McCartney II.

Whether the Beatles ever staged a reunion or not -- it won't happen in this life, obviously -- Paul has always been my favorite Beatle, and not just because he's left-handed or was in the Boy Scouts.

“Vamos Arriba!”

Monday, June 03, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Bobbie Gentry Edition)

“It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty, Delta day ...”

I used to hear this song when I was a kid. It was written and recorded in 1967 by a Mississippi singer-songwriter named Bobbie Gentry. Gentry also had a hit later in the decade with "Fancy (Don't Let Me Down)," which was an even bigger hit for Reba McIntyre.

Gentry has refused to lend any speculation, either to what was thrown off the bridge, or why Billy Joe jumped off it to his death. "She has stated in numerous interviews over the years that the focus of the song was not the suicide itself, but rather the matter-of-fact way that the narrator's family was discussing the tragedy over dinner, unconcerned that Billie Joe had been her boyfriend."

It hasn't stopped others from trying for themselves.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Speaking of love stories, a ninety-year-old woman found her high school sweetheart's diary. She couldn't believe what it said, and neither will you. (

We all know penguins don't need much help looking dressed up for a night on the town, unless it's to greet an entourage of African dignitaries, in which case black tie is definitely optional. (Sky News)

They look so content with their lives; the horse-and-buggy, the straw hats, the plain dresses with bonnets, the tightly-knit families -- we could go on, or we could uncover the ugly truth behind ... Amish fiction. (

Skipping out on a class required for graduation is the kind of thing you’d expect from a slumping senior, but not the high school itself. It seems that students in Gothenburg, Sweden, have to go back and take a required religion class to graduate. They can just forget those alumni contributions. (UPI)

Finally, in another tale of school days gone wild, they're picking on deaf kids now, as the Grand Island (Nebraska) school district is ordering a three-year-old boy to change the way he signs his name because it looks too much like ... hey, rules are rules, kid! (

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