Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Life happens ...

... and when it does, you don't always get to do the things you want, even the things you plan, even the things that others expect. This hasn't been a great month for writing. Hopefully that can be rectified in the months to come. Until then, dear reader, say a little prayer for the man in the Black Hat.

For tomorrow is another day, when the morning sun heralds the promise of God for new life, and the hope of another chance.

Friday, October 25, 2013

FAMW: More Than A Glitch

Has anyone noticed that, in the last few years, this venue's political commentary has been a little less -- oh, I dunno -- political; that is, compared to a few years ago? Maybe it has to do with being a career civil servant during the day in times like these (at a time that is most assuredly not devoted to this endeavor). Whatever the reason, the prospect of demonstrating that a button-down power-tied wing-tip-shoed conservative think tank like the Heritage Foundation can have a sense of humor, if only for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.


On Saint Crispian’s Day

Today, the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches remember Saint Crispin, who with his twin brother Crispinian, was born to a noble Roman family in the third century, preached the Gospel to the Gauls, and was awarded the crown of martyrdom by the local Roman governor circa 286. The Roman church dropped them both from the official liturgical calendar after Vatican II, due to lack of evidence of their existence (as was the case with Saint Philomena, to whom numerous miracles are attributed up until the present day -- but, we digress …).

The feast day is still fondly remembered in the British Isles, if for no other reason than that the famed Battle of Agincourt was fought on this day in 1415, along the northern coast of France near Pas-de-Calais. The battle is remembered prominently in the study of military engagements, as well as by William Shakespeare in the play Henry V. It was King Henry who led the English against the overwhelming French forces, and who is remembered by the Bard in this, the “Saint Crispin’s Day Speech” as found in Act IV, Scene 3.

This day is called
    the Feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day
    and comes safe home
Will stand a-tiptoe
    when this day is named
And rouse him at
    the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day
    and live t' old age
Will yearly on the vigil
    feast his neighbours
And say, "Tomorrow is
    Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve
    and show his scars
And say, "These wounds
    I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget;
    yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words —
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester —
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's Day.

Non nobis,

Not to us,
    O Lord,
Sed nomini,
    tuo da

But to
    your name,
    give glory.

The battle is further remembered by Donald McClarey of The American Catholic.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Ylvis “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)”

TIme once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

If you thought last week's installment was over the edge, you haven't seen what was uncovered in the course of finding it, no less than this little gem. Ylvis is a comedy duo from Bergen, Norway, consisting of two brothers named Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker. (So, "Ylvis" is an abbreviation of their surname, not the Norwegian spelling of "Elvis" after all. Imagine the relief.)

Most Americans got their first glimpse of them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just two weeks ago. From their professional debut in 2000, they now have a successful talk show on NorgeTV, already in its third season.

This video already has 180 million views. It's not hard to see why, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Women and Men

I knew that one day, if this venue were to continue for long enough, I'd be writing on a subject like this. But what could I say that would add to the conversation, that has not been already -- lately?

I subscribe to a number of sites through Facebook, if only for personal amusement. One of them is Upworthy, devoted to progressive and liberal causes. Some of them are quite worthy. Most ... eh, not so much. Occasionally, they present one that leaves a great deal to be desired. This may be one of them.

Step 1: Search Google for things such as "Women shouldn't" or "Women can't."

Step 2: Check out the auto-complete suggestions.

The results in these UN Women advertisements are real, and many online commenters have said the results are the same or very similar around the world.

The world's most popular search engine has shown us what the world really thinks of women.

And so, following a most scientific method, according to the United Nations (with the help of Google), this is what the world thinks.

women cannot
women cannot drive
women cannot be bishops
women cannot be trusted
women cannot speak in church

There are three other illustrations, so that the following are covered:

women shouldn't
women shouldn't have rights
women shouldn't vote
women shouldn't work
women shouldn't box

women should
women should stay at home
women should be slaves
women should be in the kitchen
women should not speak in church

women need to
women need to be put in their place
women need to know their place
women need to be controlled
women need to be disciplined

Now, some of these issues are genuine injustices. And, noting that of the four illustrations in the series representing the women of varying races of the world, the last one appears to be wearing traditional Muslim garb, including the "hijab," a veil that covers the head and chest, worn by females beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males. It is also worth noting that a number of regimes that impose such restrictions on women, also persecute Christians, even granting to some the crown of martyrdom, and such draconian rulers are enjoying a particularly favorable relationship with the current administration. (To be fair, some have for many years, but especially so at present.)

It goes to show that, yes, there are some genuine injustices against women in the world, at a time when the Holy Father is most attentive to the role of women in the Church (which is not the same thing as giving them titles, but ... that's another story).

But then I thought, hey, why not have a little fun with this? So, I did the same thing on Google -- you guessed it -- for men! Here now are the results of the (equally scientific) search on Google, for the top four items of the following:

men cannot
men cannot be feminists
men cannot be trusted
men cannot get hit from women
men cannot pick up chair

Actually, that last one is true. If you can stand watching this for nine minutes (as over 107,000 have already tried), you can find our for yourself that men really cannot do this, but women can. Don't ask me why.

men shouldn't
men shouldn't wear shorts
men shouldn't wear flip-flops
men shouldn't marry
men shouldn't hit women

Nor should women hit men. It happened to me once, completely unprovoked, but that's another story.

men should
men should die
men should always pray
men should pursue women
men should not wear makeup

Before our fourth item, they had "men should not marry," but we covered that already.

men need to
men need to feel needed
men need to ejaculate
men need to cheat
men need to be men

Well, that one sure ran the gamut. And finally, yours truly cannot resist the urge to add a few of his own.

men cannot bear children
men shouldn't get in the lifeboats before women and children
men should pay for dates (number six on Google's list, actually)
men need to love their wives, and lay down their lives for them

We are who we are because God made us that way. He makes men to be men, and women to be women. He does not make men who should have been made into women, or women who should have been made into men. God does not make mistakes. This means that if a man or a woman believes otherwise, and we hear so often these days of those who do, they are IN ERROR -- don't you think?

Or don't you?

Monday, October 21, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint Hilarion Edition)

They say the no good deed goes unpunished. Watch this video clip from WBZ-TV, and find out what one Boston-area schoolgirl learned the hard way, about just how arbitrary a public high school administration can be. We know all about that, don't we, Fairfax County?

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

We've been hearing a lot about the prospect of the government defaulting on its loans, had the shutdown lasted even a day longer. Did you know this has happened before -- twice? [The Daily Caller]

They say everyone needs a hobby, but an elderly woman in Florida found one she didn't know she had. [US News]

If you ever go to the UK to visit the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, be careful when you ask what's for dinner. They might tell you it's ... [Telegraph]

Once you've tried the exciting new culinary delight, you'll want something to wash it down. To that end, America has declared its favorite beer, depending on where you live. [The Daily Caller]

From food, we go to clothing, as we learn of one sartorial standby that may or may not be on the way out. [The Wall Street Journal]

Finally, we go from food to clothing to shelter, as the man who has made millions to ensure your lack of privacy will use his fortune to ensure his own. Isn't irony so ... ironic? [Time]

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What They Did On My Unpaid Vacation: Day Sixteen

The Washington Post has just reported this statement from Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget:

“Now that the bill has passed the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, the President plans to sign it tonight and employees should expect to return to work in the morning. Employees should be checking the news and OPM’s website for further updates.”

As this is written, the President expects to sign the bill tonight, authorizing, among other things, a continuing resolution (that's right, still no damn budget!) to keep the ball rolling until the 15th of January. That would require non-essential federal workers heretofore on furlough to report as early as tomorrow the 17th, possibly by Friday the 18th.

I'll know for certain when I wake up tomorrow morning at 5:45 and find out officially just what the hell is or isn't going on. Enjoy your new health care plans, America. Meanwhile, watch some people who still blame George Bush for the delay.


Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Barenaked Ladies “Odds Are”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

This week we feature Scarborough, Ontario's own Barenaked Ladies. The band released this music video for the second single from their 2013 album, Grinning Streak, only eight days ago, produced by Rooster Teeth Productions. The timing couldn't be better, what with the government shutdown still in force, with the entire planet wondering whether the entire world economy will be thrown into total chaos. Like the song says: “The odds are that we will probably be alright.”

And speaking of the lilies of the fields:

"Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day." (Matthew 6:31-34)

Padre Pio was more succinct.

"Pray, hope, and do not worry."

And so it goes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What I Did On My Unpaid Vacation: Week Two

The furlough of several hundred thousand federal government employees is finishing its second week. In nearly thirty-three years of public service, this is not the first furlough I've had, but it is (at least for my part of the system) the longest. Should this still be the case by the 17th, it may interest the reader to know that this would not be the first time the federal government has defaulted on its loans. According to The Daily Caller, it has happened twice before, under the administrations of both James Madison in 1814, and "Jimmy" Carter in 1979.

But enough about that. Let's talk about me.

Much of the time is spent going through things around the house, and in storage. It is amazing how much you manage to carry around in three decades, two of them on your own. When you're an artist by profession, you tend to accumulate the tools of your craft, which can be pretty broadly defined. Then there's having so many interests to begin with. So this is the year (maybe going into next year) that I have to start cleaning at least some of what I can't take with me (if you get my drift). I had no idea I had so much camping equipment. I might have to donate some of it, maybe to a local scout troop that's just starting up. (When you're a commissioner, you get wind of these things.) Then there's old guitars in various stages of disrepair that I actually saved for spare parts. Maybe the spare parts by themselves would take up less room. I also have a lot of books, which is what happens when you spend most of your life reading two or three at the same time.

Now you know how I know so much. I was Wikipedia before Wikipedia, which is why I once thought I had Asperger's syndrome or some other form of high-functioning autism -- but that's another story.

Meanwhile, what with the so-called "government shutdown" (the one where the majority of federal employees in the DC area are by now considered "essential," and are back to work anyway, if not knowing when they'll be paid), I've had reason to watch the news. Of course, when I want the straight story, there is no more reliable source (other than Fox Business News' Neil Cavuto) than Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. In two clips here, he conducts a two-part interview with Health and Human Services Secretary and ostensibly practicing Catholic Kathleen Sebelius. As you can see from the interview, Madame Secretary has a difficult time giving a straight answer to a question, even when the inquirer is someone who favors the terms of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as "Obamacare"). She even denies that businesses are cutting worker hours to part-time status, to avoid a loophole in the law.

Notice how, before going to the commercial break (and ending part one), Stewart asks: “Can we come back and ask some more questions? Can I ask the same one?” Before it's over, Stewart makes a big plug for a single-payer plan, which got an applause. Good one.

It also seems that Madame Secretary is in distinguished competition for the role of Queen of Denial. Listen to Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC stumble her way through an interview with Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.

On the other hand, you have to hand it to the professionals when it comes to an opinion about the "Obamacare" website itself, namely Designers of the system are furiously attempting to maximize the capacity of users, but the problem may be more fundamental than that. In a recent report from Reuters, several information technology experts have said that the problem lies with the architecture (that is, the design and structure of the entire website) itself.

For instance, when a user tries to create an account on, which serves insurance exchanges in 36 states, it prompts the computer to load an unusually large amount of files and software, overwhelming the browser, experts said.

One possible cause of the problems is that hitting "apply" on causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user's computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. He was able to track the files being requested through a feature in the Firefox browser.

(Mozilla's Firefox is a very robust and versatile web browser. It is also a notorious memory hog, which is how it handles so many features. For several years, it was my workhorse browser, especially when working on web coding and design. Until I go full tilt into web development again, I'm sticking with Safari for now.)

All told, the user must give a lot of personal information before even gaining access to any of the plans, which many IT experts say is causing the system to crash. And yet, only in giving such information can the user find out just how much it's going to cost. All the server space in the world won't help a system that is overloaded at the offset. Even now, people are already finding out that the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable. No less a publication than Forbes has suggested a motive for the lack of web usability.

A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.

That's a pretty audacious claim, even for this writer. And it's not just coming from those wingnuts on the political right, either.

+    +    +

“Tyrants preserve themselves by sowing fear and mistrust among the citizens by means of spies, by distracting them with foreign wars, by eliminating men of spirit who might lead a revolution, by humbling the people, and making them incapable of decisive action.”

The warning of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, given twenty-three centuries ago, was not lost on those who came to the Nation's capital this past weekend to protest the government shutdown, and to voice general discontent with Congress, and especially the President. A group known as “Truckers Ride for the Consitution” organized dozens of eighteen-wheelers to drive around the Capital Beltway, not so much to stop traffic as to just slow it down a bit (which already happens on a given day without their help). At one point this past Sunday, a group of them broke ranks and actually drove into Washington itself, blaring their horns en masse as they did so.

The truckers' initiative was augmented by hundreds of veterans and other citizens, waving American flags, and breaking through the fences that were erected to block access to the monuments along the National Mall, including the Lincoln Memorial, as is shown in the previous video.

But perhaps the most stirring moment of all came, when dozens of military veterans carried the town-down barriers -- "Barrycades," they were called -- and literally carried them at least one mile to the middle of the north gate in front of the White House, where they were laid down in a heap before a cheering and flag-waving crowd. While networks like CNN focused on a few crazies in the crowd who couldn't shut up about whether the President was a Muslim -- yes, Barack Hussein Obama (then under the name of Barry Soetoro) was raised Muslim by a stepfather during his childhood, and he probably didn't have much control over that -- and at least one dumb@$$ redneck (or a plant) who picked the worst possible moment to wave a Confederate flag (which some view as a symbol of racism, as opposed to its more accurate identity with regional pride and self-determination), the local ABC and NBC affiliates, as well as -- you won't believe this -- the American edition of Russia Today, provided a more balanced view of events.

Of particular interest to this writer was the reporting of Megyn Kelly of Fox News Channel, in particular, her interview with documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, producer/director of They Come To America. He provided a very moving, up-close-and-personal account of what happened in front of the White House.

I was up close looking into the eyes of many police officers. I saw only one cop who had no issue with being aggressive, but the rest of them ... I could tell they did not appreciate the assignment. For example, one cop kept hitting me in the side with his stick whenever I got too close. We were often hip to hip. I asked him politely, "Hey pal, please hit me a little easier." And then I saw a little boy who was in our line. I inched closer to the cop to avoid the child and said, "There's a little boy here." The cop gave me the stick. I yelled at him, "Hey, there's a kid here." He screamed at me, "Well then why don't you stop what you're f*cking doing." I lost it, "Why don't you stop what you're f*cking doing.

Take a good look at this photo, people. Those law enforcement officers are not from the Secret Service Uniformed Division (the "White House Police"), but from the DC Metropolitan Police. Anyone who has lived in or around Washington DC for more than a few months has to be asking themselves, why the hell are the DC Police doing crowd control in front of the White House? Equally interesting (and in fairness to those who otherwise serve and protect) is the regret that has been noticed in the faces and through the actions of so many who have had to enforce unjust laws in the Nation's capital. If things start to escalate, will it become like the 1986 "People Power" Revolution in the Philippines, when thousands of Filipino Catholics singing hymns and praying the rosary, convinced the army to join them in their non-violent march on the Presidential Palace, thus ending the rule of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos?

Could it come to this?

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

This past weekend has seen a fair number of visitors to the Nation's capital, who had trouble, you might say, staying inside the lines. This video clip from a little ABC affiliate in east Texas is just a little taste of the total anarchy that reigned on the Nation's capital yesterday. There will be more on the whole weekend shindig at this venue later today.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

A biblical scholar says that Jesus Christ was fabricated by Roman aristocrats to pull a fast one on the Jews, forgetting that Roman historians of the time also mention our blessed Lord, and that if enough people believe him, he may have to get a real job. (Daily Mail)

While less than half the federal government is having enough of a "shutdown" to be a pain in the neck, we turn to other burning issues, such as the reason that the legal drinking age in the States is twenty-one, as opposed to, say, fourteen. (Mental Floss)

You might also ask yourself, hey, why do we eat popcorn at the movies? Is it because it's the one overpriced food item you can't sneak in? Nah, already thought of that. (Smithsonian Magazine)

If you ever find your way to the town of Green Bank, West Virginia (2010 Population, 143), you'll find a phone booth that actually works. You'll also find out why people trying to escape from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (huh?) are moving there. (NPR)

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a gypsy? The simple way of living, raising your children to be con artists, in the hope of one day marrying one of their cousins? A small segment of a younger generation is escaping modernity for where the grass is greener. (Daily Mail)

Finally, Fox News has given anchor Shepard Smith a spiffy new studio set, with a staff of researchers sitting in front of what appear to be big-@$$ iPads. As one report tells it: “Good thing they have all that screen real estate just to read twitter.” (Funny Or Die)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, and if you can stop staring at the image of Shepard Smith before going completely mad, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Queen of the Holy Rosary,
Help of the Christians,
Refuge of the human race,
Conqueress in God’s battlefields,

To You and to Your Immaculate Heart
In this tragic hour of human history
We entrust and consecrate ourselves,
And the Holy Church.

She is the Mystical Body of Your Jesus,
Suffering and bleeding in so many parts
And tormented in so many ways,
We consecrate to You the whole world torn by bitter strive
And consumed by the fire of hatred
The victim of its own wickedness.

Look with compassion to all material and moral destruction
To the suffering and fears of fathers and mothers
Of husbands and wives, of brother and sisters and innocent children.
Look at the many lives cut down in the flower of youth
So many bodies torn to pieces in brutal slaughter
So many souls tortured and troubled
And in danger of being lost eternally.

Oh, Mother of Mercy, obtain peace for us from God!
Obtain especially those graces, which can convert human hearts quickly.
Those graces, which can prepare, establish and insure peace.
Queen of Peace, pray for us;
Give the world at war the peace for which all are longing,
Peace in Truth, Justice and the Charity of Christ.
Give them peace of the arms and peace of mind,
That in tranquillity and order
The Kingdom of God may expand.

Grant Your protection to infidels
And to those still walking in the shadow of death;
Give them peace and permit that the sun of truth may raise upon them;
And that together with us
They may repeat before the Only Saviour of the World:
Glory to God in the highest
And peace on earth among men of good will (Luke 2:14)

Give peace to the people separated by error and schism,
Particularly those, who have special devotion to You
And among whom there was no home,
Where Your venerable Icon was not honoured,
Though at present it may be hidden
In the hope for better days.
Bring them back to the One Fold of Christ,
Under the One True Shepherd.

Obtain peace and complete liberty for the Holy Church of God,
Check the spreading flood of neo-paganism,
Arouse within the faithful love of purity
The practice of Christian life and apostolic zeal,
So that the people who serve God,
May increase in merit and number.

All of humanity were once consecrated to the Heart of Your Son.
All our hopes rest in Him, Who is in all times
Sign and pledge of victory and salvation.
Forever we consecrate ourselves to You
And to Your Immaculate Heart,
Oh, Mother and Queen of the World!

May Your love and patronage hasten the victory of the Kingdom of God,
May all nations, at peace with each other and with God, proclaim You Blessed
And sing with You from one end of the earth to the other,
The eternal Magnificat of glory, love and gratitude
To the Heart of Jesus, in which alone,
They can find Truth, Life and Peace.

- Pope Pius XII, October 31, 1942

Friday, October 11, 2013


In response to certain measures taken by the federal government in response to the shutdown, the bikers are returning to DC, as are various veterans groups. But the first big one to hit town were the truckers. A group called “Truckers Ride For The Constitution” (formerly "Truckers to Shut Down America" and found on Facebook if the website crashes again) began by meeting at two rendezvous points both north and south of the DC area, and then proceeded to get on the Capital Beltway and take up two lanes (leaving one for emergency vehicles), holding the speed limit at 55 miles per hour. The plan is to do this throughout the weekend.

It is absolutely not true that the President will federalize the National Guard and block all entrance ramps to the Beltway. Since the eastern half is part of I-95, the major artery of transportation for the entire East Coast, it would be an overplaying of the hand currently held by the White House with respect to its current disagreement with some Republicans in Congress, and the least we would expect in the wake of such a decision, is that governors of several mid-Atlantic states would be on the phone protesting interference with the lines of commerce. What is true, is that the truckers are cooperating with the State Police in both Maryland and Virginia, and expect no trouble.

Other drivers are called upon to show support by having the Twitter hashtag visible from their vehicle: #T2SDA

Oh, one more thing ...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

... as long as this is still America. HOO-rah!

(H/T to ABC affiliate WJLA-TV, for giving this much attention to something this obvious.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Art-For-Art”s-Sake Theatre: The Shadowboxers “Still Crazy After All These Years”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

I have no idea who these guys are, except my cousin Denise sent this to me, she knows one of the guys in the band, and they sound ... well, better than the original. See if you agree.

Monday, October 07, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Our Lady of the Rosary Edition)

As this is written, we are about to start the second week of the big-@$$ #govtshutdown, as federal workers remain on furlough, except for such essential services as: 1) blocking national monuments in the Nation's capital that were basically left on their own the rest of the year, 2) picking on World War II veterans in wheelchairs who have been through a lot worse, 3) running old people from their homes which happen to sit on federal land, and 4) the occasional postal worker driving on somebody's lawn (which, in all seriousness, is an extremely rare occurrence). This can only be the fault of Republicans in Congress, who are forcing the President to take such draconian measures to prove a point, whatever that may be. If you can't believe that, you can believe Miley Cyrus. (Stop watching at twenty seconds, or risk becoming violently ill.)

Meanwhile, far enough from the Beltway to get off unscathed, and otherwise here on planet Earth:

A report is out from the City of Tolerance that is San Francisco, the police have had enough of this madcap shenanigans, and are cracking down on illegal gaming, which they say has been attracting the wrong element. What else can you expect when the game is ...? (AP)

In a less dangerous form of entertainment and ingenuity, someone has finally found a use for those old umbrellas that keep stacking up in the umbrella holder in the foyer. (Instructables)

In the Old Testament, we read of how Lot's wife turned back to look at the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah, only to turn into a pillar of salt. Legions of biblical scholars have attempted to reduce this phenomenon to a scientific explanation, while the birds at a lake in northern Tazmania have found one the heard way. (Your Daily Media)

Meanwhile, closer to home, other birds have met an even sorrier fate: “Excuse me, miss, but there’s a hair in my Chicken McNuggets.” We can only hope that's all it is. ( )

Finally, in a related story, they're making buns out of pretzels, and having fries with the burgers that are ON the burgers, but this -- THIS, my friend, is where we have to draw the line! (People)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, and while you watch this guy carve a rocking chair out of a dead tree stump without power tools, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

The Rosary: Shedding Light on Mysteries

VIDEO: "The Rosary" composed by Ethelbert Nevin. Recorded 23 September 1951 for The Mario Lanza Show, starring "the most famous tenor in the world" himself, with studio orchestra conducted by Ray Sinatra.

Today, the western Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, established in 1571 by Pope Pius V, to commemorate the victory over Muslim forces at the Battle of Lepanto, saving Christian Europe from the conquest of Islam. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed its title to "The Feast of the Holy Rosary." Originally assigned to the first Sunday in October, Pope Pius X moved it to the 7th of October. Today, if only in the traditional usage, it is referred to as “The Feast of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

While the month of May is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is October that is specifically devoted to the Rosary.

Tradition says that Saint Dominic received the Rosary from the Blessed Mother in a vision. We cannot be sure of this. What we can be sure of, is that the structure of the Rosary was derived from the number of Psalms, which were the bulk of the Divine Office chanted or recited by monks and clerics during the Middle Ages. 150 Paternosters eventually became 150 Avemarias. The latter in turn was broken down into three groups of fifty each, with every ten Aves punctuated by a Paternoster. Eventually, a brief meditation on the scriptures was attached to each prayer. Because this was easier and more accessible to the average layman, what we know as the Rosary was also called "the poor man's psalter." Popes throughout the centuries referred to it as "The Psalter of Our Lady."

In 2002, Pope John Paul II released the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he proposed for optional use, an additional five "Mysteries of Light" or "Luminous Mysteries," which focused on key events in the life of Christ, so as to lend a Christological dimension to this devotion. Given the overwhelming popularity of the late pontiff, both during his life, the cult of his veneration after his death, and his impending canonization, I can just hear it now: “Hey there, O Black Hatted One, the pope made the Rosary twenty decades long. Get over it, duuude!”

Well, duuude, there is a problem with this assertion: the Pope never said that. Here is what he DID say:

A proposed addition to the traditional pattern

19. Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are indicated by the Rosary in the form that has become generally established with the seal of the Church's approval. The selection was determined by the origin of the prayer, which was based on the number 150, the number of the Psalms in the Psalter.

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

Consequently, for the Rosary to become more fully a “compendium of the Gospel”, it is fitting to add, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light). This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory.

Many devout Catholics, including those otherwise well versed in matters of faith, would overlook the careful wording in the document itself. We have highlighted them in red, so as to clarify anything they (apparently) missed. Note the last highlighted passage in particular ...

This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format ...

What is an "essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format," you may ask? It would be its relationship to the Psalter from which its format is derived. If the pope wanted to make the Luminous Mysteries the norm, thus altering the "traditional format," he would have said so explicitly. He did not.

But walk into any Catholic bookstore, pick up any book, leaflet, holy card, or other instruction on the Rosary, and you will see that the new mysteries are given equal footing with the others, as opposed to being listed as an option, or listed separately. This is not so, and John Paul II did not intend it so. And yet, in the world of religious goods and supply, anything associated with John Paul II is a cash cow. Whatever the pious intentions of those who favor these additional contemplations (and it would never be the mission of this venue to call them into question), at the end of the day, it's all about the money.

Thankfully, at least one supplier never lost their senses. At the online store for St John Cantius Parish in Chicago, they offer a three audio CD set on the Traditional Rosary. For only $15.00, you can listen to a meditation on each mystery as the decade begins, and pray the Aves while listening to sacred music that is well suited for such contemplation. It's the perfect companion for praying the Psalter of Our Lady, whether at home, or on the road. (Almost as good as listening to Mario Lanza, but not quite.)

To conclude, the Luminous Mysteries are simply not part of the Rosary. Does this make them a bad thing (as some of you are already concluding is being said here)? Of course not. No contemplation of the life of Christ, in the context of a popular devotion, could ever be construed that way. Could the Holy Father make a twenty-decade rosary in continuity with its venerable tradition? No more than he could add fifty new prayers to the Book of Psalms ... don't you think?

Or don't you?

FOOTNOTE: To our regular viewers (and you both know who you are), as well as those who came over from Big Pulpit and Creative Minority Reader, for more about the Rosary, visit this site every Monday this month. We've got more where this came from, including a look at this writer's ever-expanding rosary collection, and the traditional scripture verses long associated with each of the fifteen (you read it right the first time) mysteries. No, this isn't Patheos; why does it have to be? Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sunday, October 06, 2013


“Sunday's child is full of grace.”

That was the quotation on a set of announcement cards hurriedly assembled one evening, twenty-eight years ago today, when my son Paul David Alexander was born. The 6th of October fell on a Sunday in 1985 as well.

Before he entered the world, safe within his mother's womb, he was known as “Tad.” The name was generic enough, since we didn't know what we were getting at the time. It was also reminiscent of “Tadpole,” a nickname one of my uncles would call me, whenever he into town from the farm. For much of elementary school, Paul was known as “Alex,” and for a time, carried on a tradition for three generations (although for his grandfather, it was met with three or four heads popping out the door at its calling, rather than one).

It was on the first day of school, either in the fifth or sixth grade, when the teacher asked him his name, and with only a moment to think of something clever, he responded with “Cubby,” and it managed to stick with him for most of the year that followed. By the time he was a senior in high school, he went by the stage name of “Memento Mori,” while making the rounds in the local freestyle and hip-hop circuit. In 2009, he entered the U S Air Guitar championships as “Fender Splendor,” winning the title in the Philadelphia regionals, and placing sixth in the nation. This latest moniker is also his Twitter handle, albeit temporarily under the name of “scary benghazi egg.” Don't ask me why.

In the past fifteen months, he completed his senior year at the über-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in Interactive Design and Game Development. In August of last year, following a summer internship, he was offered a position with Camouflaj, a recently opened and up-and-coming design studio in Bellevue, Washington, across one of the numerous lakes from Seattle. Upon graduating “fere cum laude” (that is, with a 3.4 GPA, thus almost with honors) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he was already on the design team for his firm's first release, “Republique,” the first video game in history to be optimized for mobile devices (specifically, the iOS platform for iPhones, although Mac and PC versions are in development). Paul has also been designated as lead designer for their next endeavor, known only as “Project Porpoise.”

Meanwhile, he has engaged his father's professional services in a bit of rebranding. (I can hear my typography professor now, suggesting I go back and do one hundred more versions of this until I get it right.)

Along the way, he has appeared on HuffPost Live this past summer, as a guest interviewer of Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, and author of the book Finding the Next Steve Jobs. (Paul starts at about 09:30.) In the time since that show was done, Paul and I have conversed at length, not only on the future of game design, and the design industry in general, but regarding its effects on popular culture. Paul sees himself on the fast track, and aspires to rise to critical acclaim within his profession.

And yet, there is also a transformation of sorts. In an age when so many of his generation have so many means of communication at their disposal, does it take away from their humanity, their ability to simply talk to one another, rather than walk through the streets of the city, their ears plugged into devices, their eyes half-fixed to something called “Google Glass,” only being half-aware of their real-life surroundings?

If this is the future, the impertinent question remains: is this an opportunity to invent, or to warn of, the next big thing?

Paul must go to Seattle for the second half of this month, to complete the big project. One can only work via computer from 2500 miles away for so long. Even with the latest technology, there is no replacement for being there, which may in itself be an answer to the question ... in question.

Playing the blues harp on the street at the Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington, August 2003.

His business in Atlanta having been completed, he hopes to move to that fair city in the northwest by the end of this year. He first went to visit there with me ten years ago this past summer. It was to his mind the best vacation he ever had. And even though living in one place is not the same experience as just visiting, I believe that Paul will discover that Seattle and its environs will agree with him. One can only hope.

Friday, October 04, 2013

What I Did On My Unpaid Vacation: Week One

As most of you know, I was furloughed from my work as a federal employee, effective this past Tuesday.

I check my office email every day for updates. This morning I responded to an intra-agency chat from a colleague. It seems that an entire section of my agency was deemed "excepted," and has been reporting to work the entire time.

Me: Hey, what are you doing here?

Joe: more importantly ... what are you doing here? you could get in BIG trouble being here

Me: Checking the mail in the morning to see if people are reporting back to work. We're allowed to do that much, remember? What's your excuse?

Joe: I'm NOT furloughed. I'm allowed to be here

Me: Whaddaya mean, you're not furloughed?

Joe: [XYZ] isn't furloughed

Me: Why not?

Joe: we're funded differently

Me: Really? Oooh, funded differently. Well, how do you like that? So, everybody from [XYZ] is in, right?

Joe: pretty much

Me: You're getting paid, right?

Joe: if they process the paychecks

Me: Well, speaking of work, mine is done for now, so I'm outa here. Buh-bye.

Joe: buh bye

A real beehive of insight, isn't it?

That development doesn't surprise me now that I know, but if I told you why, that would give away where I work. You know the score.

I've spent the week paying bills (which don't go away), taking care of my car (the 2005 Scion XB, which will be sold soon), reading, Going through stuff around the house and deciding what to pitch, watching an occasional movie, and ... being bored out of my skull. You see, it's hard to start anything that could go into the next day, because I could wake up at six o'clock one morning, check my inbox, and find out, HEY, BACK TO WORK, SUCKA! Each day starts that way, with Plan A and Plan B.

I've spoken to one other officemate since this began. I haven't heard from anybody else (except for Joe, who would never rat me out -- probably). No one knows anything.

The Washington Post did an interesting piece last week on the history of government shutdowns. There have been seventeen of them up to now, and they make for fascinating reading. The longest was for 21 days, and ran from December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996. Not everyone was off for that long, however. There are eleven appropriations bills in the federal budget (when we have one), and all cabinet departments and agencies are grouped under any one of them. Unless we simply limp along at current spending levels through what is called a "continuing resolution," the Defense appropriation would likely be passed first. The one for my agency is probably somewhere close behind. (Don't ask.)

The last time this happened, my part of the federal bureaucracy was only off for three or four days, and I got paid. (Depending on the circumstances, it's often cheaper to do so than not to in the long run, or so it has been argued.) What will happen this time? Well, it depends on who you ask, but it would require a separate decision by Congress. And the rumors, oh, the rumors. One informed source says, no way we're getting paid for being off, not in this political climate. Another equally informed source says, oh, yeah, they're gonna pay us, don't worry. I'm not worried, since I made plans for this sort of thing. I'm good for a month. After that, I'm not sure.

We'll see what next week brings. My guess is (if I had to) that this will be over by the end of next week. The adverse effects to the economy, at least locally, are already being felt. Meanwhile, we have two video clips from June of 2012, a two-part interview by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, with think-tankers Norman Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute) and Thomas Mann (Brookings Institute) about the decline of cooperative problem-solving in Washington.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Shutdown: What It Is, What It Ain’t

This past midnight, the United States government not only did not have an annual budget (and has been without one for the last four years), but also lacked what is called a "continuing resolution," that to which Congress and the President agree as a means of operating at "present spending levels" for a specified time of up to, but not usually, a fiscal year. This short-term fix has kept the nation's government operating for at least four years. But after continued parlays from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and (when it comes down to it) both sides of the political aisle, the luck ran out.

This morning, all federal employees deemed "non-essential" were required to spend up to four hours on duty for "shutdown operations," after which they were sent home. They will get paid for those hours -- eventually. Once a budget or continuing resolution is passed and signed by the President, all employees will return to duty. Whether they will be paid retroactively is a separate decision made by the Congress. In the past, they have done so, but the present general sentiment indicates that they most likely will not. (Relax, all 535 elected members of the legislature who have been dicking around for the past four years are considered "essential." They will get paid on time, if they have to run the presses and print more money by themselves.)

Now, I know what at least one of you is thinking: “Dude, we never know the difference when [begin dripping sarcasm] non-essential workers [end dripping sarcasm] are sent home for a few days, or a few weeks, so, like, um, why should we care? You should suffer just like the rest of us.” My initial response would be thus:

You're an idiot.

That's right. You merely think there's no difference, as long as your Aunt Minnie still gets her Social Security check on the same date every month, and you yourself are not otherwise inconvenienced. Tell that to the war veterans who literally tore down the fences blocking the World War II Memorial today (with the help of at least two members of Congress), because all national parks are now closed. You gotta hand it to them; at this age, these old grunts haven't lost their touch. Meanwhile, dear old Auntie will get her check -- eventually. You see, the money may come from a separate fund, but most of the people responsible for processing it have just been sent home, you big dummy! So you may have to float the old gal a few hundred until the unpaid masses yearning to assist you get to return to their jobs and do just that.

Now that I've got what's left of your attention, let's take a closer look at that, using big words that you'll have to read slowly, to see how some of you will be inconvenienced.

FINANCIAL SERVICES. The Small Business Administration will stop making loans, federal home loan guarantees will likely go on hold, and students applying for financial aid could also see delays and backlogs in applications.

HEALTH CARE. The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients and delay or stop clinical trials. Medicare and the Veterans administration will continue paying out benefits, but new filers could face delays and doctors and hospitals may also have to wait for reimbursements.

PUBLIC SAFETY. The Environmental Protection Agency would stop reviewing environmental impact statements and food inspectors would stop conducting workplace inspections unless there is an imminent danger. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms could stop processing applications for permits.

SECURITY AND TRAVEL. The Department of Homeland Security would suspend the E-Verify program, which helps businesses determine the eligibility of employees, creating hiring delays. The State Department will also likely halt new passport and visa applications.

PARKS AND RECREATION. The National Park Service sites and the Smithsonian Institution will be shutdown. During the 1990s, 368 sites closed down and approximately 7 million visitors denied entry.

DISASTER RELIEF. In preparation for a potential shutdown, the Utah National Guard is holding off on sending a team to help rebuild areas in Colorado devastated by massive floods last week. More National Guard engineers are desperately needed to repair major roads and bridges in Colorado. Roughly 240 Colorado National Guardsmen currently working on flood missions are also in danger of losing funding.

NUTRITION FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN. Though food stamps will still be available in the event of a shutdown, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, a service meant to help new and expecting mothers and their young children get nutritious foods, will not. If a shutdown lasts for more than a few days, the roughly 9 million Americans who rely on WIC could see their assistance dry up, leaving them food-insecure.

The article at couldn't be more biased against Republicans for allegedly causing this, as the party that didn't control both houses of Congress when the no-budget scenario began, doesn't have one of its own for President who won't sign it without that which most Americans do not want. and didn't have one of its own say that "you'll have to pass the bill to see what's in it." All that aside, the above is a pretty good indication of what you will be missing until this is straightened out. Granted, some things will be missed by some people more than others. But a great portion of the population will be at least mildly inconvenienced while its tax dollars are not at work, including anyone with a government contract that's waiting for their business to be conducted smoothly. That last one will hurt the small businesses the most.

All the crybabies who think they can get along without the government, still want to feed from the federal trough. They are used to it. The most ardent Tea Party member wants their Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They paid for them, right? Well, yes, but you also pay for people to make sure you get them. You also pay for the federal government to swoop down on your little hamlet if there's a tornado, even before the governor of your state can ask them, which is required.

And last but not least, federal employees pay for the same things, with taxes, just as you do. They often get much of the blame for that over which they have absolutely no control. This brings up one more subject. Salaries and benefits are a substantial percentage of a state budget, but only a fraction of a percent of the federal budget. The savings to the federal debt incurred by three years without a cost-of-living increase for federal employees, will amount to about one-fourth of one percent. The woman who once told me -- in full view of Twitter, of all places -- that federal workers should suffer like others do is an ill-informed little twit! What possible benefit will come from wishing ill on people who try to make an honest living? If she can think of one, she can tell it to Federal defense worker Rob Merritt, a husband and father of four, who would have gone bankrupt from a furlough due to medical bills from heart surgery.

(As for me, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a contingency in place, so there will be no "tin cup rattle" campaign at this venue anytime soon, at least not to pay my mortgage.)

What can you do about what's wrong with Washington? Hold your elected representatives accountable. Quit re-electing the same bozos every time they want to keep their miserable job with exorbant benefits, and exemption from many of the laws they pass (including the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare"). That goes ditto for you idiot Republicans in Arizona who keep sending that geezer John McCain back to Washington. For pity's sake, stop making that poor old man think he's indispensable, and let him retire in peace.

That, and quit crying to me about it. We get the leaders we ask for, the leaders we deserve. That means you, too, buckaroo!