Friday, February 28, 2014

FAMW: A Conference Call in Real Life

If you haven't seen this go viral already (and you both know who you are), this is what the 21st century corporate office environment is like.

Recent years have seen the rise of "hotelling" or the sharing of desk space by alternating "teleworkers" -- Dick works at home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Jane works at home on her company laptop, and comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays so Dick can stay at home and ... walk the dog and pretend he's working. It all sounds great, until you try to get them all together for a meeting. It's funny, yes, until you have to work this way, and find how easy it is for at least one joker to be perpetually disengaged from his virtual office environment.

It happens to yours truly on a weekly basis. Tripp and Tyler demonstrate what a regular in-the-office meeting would look like if it went like a conference call. It's hilarious, unless this is what your job is like, in which case it's REALLY hilarious. And so it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

And while we're at it, welcome to my day job. Watch your American tax dollars at work.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows Edition)

Shown here are scenes from a movie coming to theaters on May 9, which will prove once and for all (if in a very subtle way) that the Catholic Church is the One True Church, founded by Christ Himself, outside of which none can be saved. More on this one next Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of Believers lately:

Taylor Marshall visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and reports: “I am back from Mexico and I feel like a new man. Just ask Joy, my wife.” Like the Doctor says: “Stay salty, my friends.” [Taylor Marshall]

Chronic über-trad and editor of The Remnant, Michael Matt says he's with Jimmy Fallon on the matter of irreverence in the celebration of Holy Mass. It only took him two and a half years after the interview in question to tell us about it. Atta boy, Mickey! [The Remnant]

Catholic funerals do not allow for eulogies during the Mass or the Ritual, at least technically. Some bishops are starting to crack down. In the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington, they already have -- except for priests and really really important people. [WDTPRS/Father Z's Blog]

The Bishop of St Petersburg, Florida, the Most Reverend Robert Lynch, is having another attack of foot-in-mouth disease. Until science finds a cure, here's what he says (rather badly, we should add) about the "sensus fidelium." Of course, who am I to judge? []

The White House isn't the only one to make a good use of a crisis. Father Robert Barron chose the rioting in Ukraine, and priests standing in the line of fire to keep the peace, as a case for a celibate priesthood. Unfortunately ... [Fear Not Little Flock]

... someone forgot to inform the good Father that the priest in the photo is, in fact, married, with a wife and a boatload of kids. They have those in the Eastern Churches, you know, and the roof doesn't fall in. Smooth move, Padre! (We note that the offending article has since been removed. The point is, he should have known better to begin with, as his commentary was theologically problematic at best.) [St Sophia's Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “Would you give your jacket to Johannes?”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

When an eleven-year-old boy named Johannes sat at a bus stop without a jacket in Oslo, Norway, hidden cameras captured a series of very special moments. The experiment was filmed by the Norwegian branch of the SOS Children’s Villages International charity, as part of a campaign to provide warm clothing for displaced children in Syria.

(H/T to

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

“Say you want a revolution, well, you know ...”

The Manila Bulletin headline of Aquino's assassination on August 21, 1983

Twenty-eight years ago today, “Sal” helped overthrow a government.

I once told my youngest nephew about how she did this, and he just figured I was messing with him. But it really is true, although she is rather modest about it, and won't talk about it much.

By 1972, the Philippines was ruled under martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos. As time went on, his regime was the catalyst for organized corruption, and even assassination of his rivals. By 1986, the nation was on the brink of civil war. Then the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, called for a peaceful protest against the regime.

Our Lady of EDSA, built in 1989 to commemorate the 1986 Revolution.

First, His Eminence contacted two orders of cloistered nuns, directing them to forgo their usual routine, and pray continuously before the Blessed Sacrament, until he told them otherwise. Then he got on Radio Veritas, and called upon his countrymen to take to the streets, to meet the soldiers guarding Malacañang (the presidential palace), and plead with them to lay down their arms. The tanks rolling down Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) were stopped in their tracks by devout Catholics on their knees, praying the rosary and singing hymns. Sal was among those who went to the soldiers' encampment, with armloads of pastries and other homemade baked goods, to win their hearts through their stomachs.

Sal, the unsung “Bayani ng Bayan” (Heroine of the Nation).

The rest, as they say, is history.

It became known as the “People Power Revolution” or the “EDSA Revolution” (for the avenue where events culminated, and where they did again for another overthrow in 2001). In the more than ten years I have known her, she has not repeated such anarchic tendencies.

Not yet anyway.

Monday, February 24, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint Matthias’ Day Edition)

Congress woman Jackie Speier debates diplomatic spending with Nice Peter and Kassem G, with a little help from their friends, The Gregory Brothers, while a variety of pundits and politicians bemoan the biggest dangers of 2014: zoo closures, marijuana legalization, and texting.

(Of course, she forgets that you can only afford steak, and maybe a shot of vodka, while on official government travel, if you spend your per diem allowance wisely. Not sure about caviar, though.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Did you know that there were still woolly mammoths walking the face of the aforementioned planet when the Pyramids were built? It might explain how all those big-@$$ bricks got moved. [Kottke]

Every woman has her price, and this concerned mother in Provo, Utah, was sufficiently offended by tee-shirts in a display window to lay it on the line. [Provo Daily Herald]

Another mother lays it on the line, as the First Lady gives us all fair warning, that almost-sixteen-year-old Malia Obama will soon be learning to drive a car when she's not whining about having to live in the White House. (If they're smart, they'll limit her to the roads of Camp David. God help that Secret Service detail if they don't.) [Politico]

In a related story of women getting behind the wheel, here's where the latest trend in hot biker chicks can be found. [The Daily Beast]

Closer to home, "I've heard lots of students say Blended Learning helps them to understand it more because you can digest in the information at your own paste and go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths." That was written by a high school student. His money is as good as anyone else's to get into the Art Institute of Washington -- but that's another story. [New York Post]

Speaking of the use of the English language, such has become the lingua franca of the world of business, but not if the snotty-pants French have anything to say about it. Zut alors! [PolicyMic]

Finally, we note the passing of comedic actor, writer, and director Harold Ramis at the age of 69, in a manner which he might have done himself (and did, apparently), with this 1977 scene from Second City TV, where he plays the part of Moe Green in a public service announcement on the seven warning signs of death. (H/T to Steven Schloeder via Brett Graham Fawcett.) [SCTV]

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

FAMW: Talkin’ Hashtags

Once upon a time, it was the least pressed button on the dial pad of a telephone, and was rarely used even in the written word. Now it has become the staple of every single social network, and every form of text communication. Will it eventually take over the English language? #saywhat

Not if Jimmy Fallon of NBC's The Tonight Show can help it.

Fallon illustrates just how ridiculous we would sound if we had a Twitter (or Facebook, or Instagram) conversation in real life, with the assistance of Jonah Hill in making the point (or the repeated hashtags). This is followed by a voice from the Millennials' past, reminding them of the true manly virtues for intelligent discourse. It's come to this, people, if only for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Septuagesima Thursday Edition)

In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis talked about the Sacrament of Confession. With about 20,000 people in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope encouraged Catholics to embrace the Sacrament. His Holiness ends his address by giving the Pontifical Blessing -- in Latin. Film at eleven. (Video from Rome Reports.)

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of Believers lately:

From the University of New Mexico, we see that the Archbishop of Albuquerque is replacing the Dominicans at the Newman Center with archdiocesan priests, with one longtime parishioner claiming that His Excellency considered the parish "insufficiently doctrinaire," and (falsely) that parishioners were not consulted. In any negotiation, even the aggrieved party must bring something to the table -- in this case, starting with a clue. [National Catholic Reporter]

Caleb Alexander (no relation, probably) talks about marriage and growing in love. She does not talk about a little thing called “defect of intention.” Neither does anyone else (ahem!) on the Patheos Catholic Channel. (Okay, boys and girls, let's see if YOU can find it.) [Barefoot and Pregnant]

Owww! Another anonymous expert comes out of the woodwork. "The Timman" informs us that women are still required under Church law to have their heads covered at Mass. At least three canonists beg to differ, but he's got citations out the yin yang. Sorry, Timmy, you left out something called a “sound premise,” unless the Church has lost her authority "to bind and to loose." Better luck next time. [St Louis Catholic]

Here we have a message for all you young people out there discerning the prospect of a married vocation (a polite term for being "on the make"), in the form of dating advice from the Archbishop of Denver. Not as bad as one might expect. [Denver Catholic Register]

Finally, there's been a lot of coverage, both in the Catholic press and blogosphere, on one issue in particular. And while an examination thereof is beyond the scope of this piece, here's an idea that just may eventually come in handy. But hey, who are we to judge? [That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Ben Hatke

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

In the art world, there is indeed still a place for paper and pencil, pen, and/or brush. A case in point is Ben Hatke, a writer, artist, author of graphic novels and picture books -- most notably the Zita the Spacegirl series, and the forthcoming picture book Julia’s House. An illustration of the former is shown here, in varying stages of development, and as yet another excuse for an animated gif.

(H/T to Daniel Nichols of Caelum et Terra.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

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

On Presidents Day, America shows its deep respect, with deep discounts! Uncle Jay explains our multi-Monday holiday traditions.

Or you can always go back to Bob Costas. Oh, wait, no you can't.

Of course, our title for this week refers to the start of the traditional pre-Lenten season (the term being Latin for "seventy days"), which in the tradition of the Roman Rite, goes for three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday and the actual start of Lent (known in Latin as "Quadragesima" for "forty days." Duh!). Even the Eastern churches have a similar period before the "Great Fast." In some parts of the world (where they really know how to party), it signals the beginning of another pre-Lenten season -- Carnival!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

By now, you've heard that you can choose from up to fifty fake genders for your Facebook profile, in addition to the two real ones. Unfortunately, “It’s complicated” is not one of them. [AP]

Speaking of complicated, everyone knows that only dead presidents are on the money. And so, Yahoo! reporter Chris Moody gets his just desserts for acting like a know-it-all. Wow, they sure showed him! [The Federalist]

In a completely unrelated story, a woman in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is on the hunt for a mystery couple whose decade old wedding photos she found in a stolen camera. [WNYW-TV]

At this halfway point in our report, you must be wondering, why do crocodiles paint their toenails red? The answer is, so they can hide in cherry trees. Science marches on! [Wired]

Over at The Daily Show, they're making a lot out of certain political positions being awarded to people who would not ordinarily qualify for said position in real life (that is, outside of Washington), including the appointment of ambassadors to countries they'd be lucky to find on a map. Such patronage is not new, nor confined to incumbent Presidents of one party, but has been on the rise in recent years. Still, it's fun to watch rich people totally humiliate themselves. [Hot Air]

In another tale of humiliation, we all know about people who wait in line for days to see a new movie, or get that new computer, or ... well, this guy's not wasting any time. (That reminds me, my two-year contract is almost up. If I leave now ...) [CNET]

Among adult volunteers in Scouting, the debate lingers on as to why the boys can shoot arrows and rifles on Scout activities, but are not allowed to shoot paintballs. (This is what happens when lawyers bring the party down.) But alas, there is hope, in this latest excuse for a GIF animation, and an endless supply of rubber bands. [Fast Code Design]

Finally, and in another report on emerging technology, it was said that once we started using computers, we wouldn't be using as much paper. Yours truly can attest to that from his own experience, but it would appear that a few more trees may need to be sacrificed for, of all things, the aforementioned emerging technology. [Gajitz]

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

THIS JUST IN: George Washington was NOT the first President of the United States (as yours truly was already aware), but the ninth! Seriously. [Mental Floss]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday and the “Fake Community”

By now, we've all seen this video, but it is here as a point of departure.

We have no class.

(This is nothing. You should see them at the Kennedy Memorial. You can only walk one way. You so much as turn around to look the other way, and the statuesque man in blue standing to the side will direct you otherwise. That's taking it just a bit too far, especially if your two-year-old doesn't care what the soldier says ... but that's another story.)

Father Z recently went on a self-admitted "rant" about people "yucking it up in church." You know the score. You walk into church on Sunday morning, and everybody is talking, glad-handing, even shouting, as if it were any venue other than a church. Even in the Excruciatingly Orthodox Diocese of Arlington, if a parish church is inclined toward this sort of ruckus, a pastor will often do little to discourage it, and in a few cases, may actually encourage it, in part through the annoying custom of shaking hands with people around you before Mass begins.

But why, even in such an ecclesiastical paradise, does it happen in the first place? Why do people feel the need to strike up conversation in the pews when the Mass ends, even in places with the Traditional Mass? It's harder to resist than you think, especially when you don't see these people the rest of the week.

First, we must consider the prospect of a genuine human need being met. People who otherwise have decent table manners, and know not to pick their noses in public, may not deliberately go out of their way to be disrespectful in the house of God. What if the solution to the problem lies not in eliminating something, but in channeling it elsewhere? And what is missing elsewhere?

Consider the remarks of "Supertradmum" in the comments box.

In the old days, besides people having a sense of place and decorum, which is gone even in secular society, people in the churches saw each other during the week. Either they had kids in the parochial school, or were neighbors, or were close enough to be in each others' houses.

Fake community is only seeing each other on Sunday and catching up with "news," which is more likely gossip.

And, no offense, but the worst ones are 1) the older people who no longer get out because no one cares about them during the week ...

Well, that might be the reason, but I'm not so sure.

When I go back to Cincinnati, I visit Mom at her assisted living place. Sometimes I take a deep breath and join her for the Saturday evening Mass. Get nearly a hundred of those old biddies in a room, all of whom have plenty of opportunity to see each other, and you'd think the fox got loose in the henhouse. I never heard so much cackling in all my life! I know what you're thinking too: “But, but, how could you, you Black-Hatted Effete Snob? Have you no compassion for these old people who are steadily losing their proverbial marbles, and cannot always help themselves?” To which I reply: Au contraire, mon ami! We may not be seeing the "baby boomers" checking into the Old Folks Homes just yet, but we are seeing the age group right before them -- too young to get drafted in World War II, but just settling down in the Eisenhower years -- the ones that were nearing middle-age in the 1970s, and got totally into all that pseudo-charismatic hand-holding nonsense to try to kid themselves into staying young. But not my Mom, nosiree Bob! She never behaved like that back in the day, and she doesn't now, even though she's starting to lose her ... well, you know.

Oh, and one more thing: I'm not a snob. I'm a prig. There's a difference.

A big part of it is the way we treat Sunday. You know how families complain that the Traditional Mass is always too late in the day? Well, there's a reason for that, and we've dealt with that before, haven't we, kiddies? For some of them, Sunday is a day of rest, but for others, it's a day when they want that Latin Mass, but they wish it wouldn't hold them up from the rest of the day, because little Johnny has to be driven to the north side of town for a big soccer game, and little Susie has a volleyball tournament on the south side of town, and then there's this and that and all the other stuff that makes us forget that on the Seventh Day, even God rested, so why the hell don't we?

Then there's the scene once we get there. You can't just pop into a church to pray anymore. It becomes an errand, like getting in the minivan, driving through the maze of suburbia, and finding the Walmart-with-cross-on-top in the midst of a big-@$$ parking lot. Now, imagine that on Sunday. You think people just hang around? No, they've got to get to their cars, they've got to get onto their hopelessly middle-class lives, their football games on TV. They don't have time to mix with people after Mass. But still, the needs of the human heart remain, and they see Mrs McGillicuddy in the pew and it's, hey, hi, Maggie, how ya doin'? Did you hear about blah blah blah ...

Ever run an altar server program, and try to speak with one of the parents afterwords? You can tell little Johnny flat out, I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOUR MOMMY, OKAY??? And one minute Mommy's right there, and next minute ... whoosh, off she goes in the Dodge Suburban. Happens a lot. People have their kids, their busy, busy lives. That's excusable on a weekday, but Sunday is the Lord's Day. And yet, sometimes, even for Mr and Mrs Über-Trad and their little brood with matching outfits, it's one more thing to pencil in.

It won't change anytime soon. Pastors are not going to say anything. People might get upset. They might miss the one o'clock kickoff. They might complain to the bishop. They might wet their pants. Who knows? But until it does change, and until we realize Sunday for what it is (and what it is not), we won't even begin to know how to act with it.

And that's when the profane will continue to invade the sacred from one week to the next. They take it with them everywhere. They've forgotten how to leave it back at the house, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Walt Disney Animation Studios “Paperman” (with Optional 3-D)

As a final note for an occasion dedicated to lovers everywhere (or those who long to be), we present this animated short film from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Directed by Jon Kahrs, Paperman premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It was also nominated at last year's Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Film.

We present it here in optional 3-D. To make the choice, simply click on the full screen option in the lower right hand corner (thus minimizing the effect of that stupid rainbow thing), and look for the settings button.

FAMW: Obligatory Valentine’s Day Schtick

This being Valentine's Day, we had to do something to mark the occasion. This submission is one that could only happen at a place like Brigham Young University, where romance never dies, if only because the Mormons succeed in weeding out all the creepy guys. That's the only explanation as to why the five lads who comprise the á cappella ensemble known as Vocal Point could pull off a stunt like this, even for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Almost Saint Valentine’s Day Edition)

'Tis the eve of Valentine's Day. Saint Valentine, of course, was a real saint from the third century, who according to the official Church record, “died on the 14th of February on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian bridge in Rome.” For the occasion, we have Gregory Alan Isakov performing a song named for the saint in the CPR Performance Studio last August.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of True Believers lately:

Last week, we reported on a Catholic schoolteacher who was fired for being pregnant out of wedlock. Canonist Edward Peters reminds us that the zeal of righteousness is no substitute for prudent consideration. [In the Light of the Law]

Earlier this week, we noted the passing of former child actress Shirley Temple. Rebecca Hamilton asks “why did Shirley Temple survive the meat grinder of child stardom?” Probably because she got out after she was done being a child when she first married at seventeen. Not that there wouldn't be more to it, of course. [Public Catholic]

The blowback from a report of a critical view of Tolkein's work has provoked this response: “The reaction from many quarters was stronger than might have been expected if we had posted a denial of an article of the Creed,” and that the works of Tolkein are of a variety “not part of the canon of great literature of Christian Civilization.” (I'd hate to ask what he thinks of C S Lewis.) At least now we know why the contributor in question hides behind a pseudonym -- hey, as long as we're being “quite honest about it.” [Rorate Caeli]

Matthew Archbold won't let his daughter go to just any sleepover. In fact, he won't let her go to one at all. Is he right, or is he starting to remind me too much of MY dad (may God rest his soul)? [Creative Minority Report, National Catholic Register]

Michael Matt, editor of the über-trad periodical The Remnant, apparently senses foul play whenever "theology" and "body" are used in the same sentence, wondering: “Has the thinking of Alfred Kinsey found its way into the Catholic Church?” No, it has not, and Michael could save himself a lot of trouble by clicking here. Nonetheless, it was the subject of this past week's meeting of the Argument of the Month in Saint Paul, Minnesota. [Argument of the Month]

Finally, if you have yet to make your New Year's resolutions, or have broken them already and need some new ones, Pope Francis has a list of recommendations. [Rappler]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The pre-eminent child actress of the classic movie era, Shirley Temple, died on Monday at her home in Woodside, California, surrounded by family and loved ones. She was 85 years old.

Beginning her movie career in 1931 at the age of three, Temple went on to star in over ninety films in the three decades that followed. As an actor, dancer, and singer, her career peaked as she reached adolescence, for reasons undetermined at this writing, although she did marry for the first time at seventeen, and was a stay-at-home mother when her children were growing up. Even so, she managed to continue performing on stage and screen into the television years. Temple also participated in numerous charitable causes, and became a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to Ghana, Czechoslovakia, as well as Chief of Protocol.

The little girl known as "America's Sweetheart" appears in this video clip as she might best be remembered, tap dancing with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in a scene from the 1935 film The Littlest Rebel.

Monday, February 10, 2014

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

50 years ago this week, the Beatles annoyed the parents of countless Baby Boomers, and now after all these years they're annoying Boomers' children and grandchildren. This week Uncle Jay explains how even this can relate to today's news.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

The question on people's minds in Pittsburgh is, when is a Burger King not a Burger King? When it's ... well, uh, not exactly a Burger King. [WPXI-TV]

Have you ever lost your Twitter name? With the growing popularity of the social media platform, it could happen more often, especially when it's small enough to be missed. [Gizmodo]

In Portland, Oregon, a predominantly-African-American neighborhood doesn't want a Trader Joe's to be built on a lot that's been empty for years because it will attract too many white people, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase: "There goes the neighborhood." [The Oregonian]

At a bank in the UK, customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not give a good enough reason. It's like when your Mama keeps the lock on your piggy bank, only your a grownup and ... well, thank goodness that will never happen in America. Probably. [BBC]

In a related story, actor Samuel L Jackson was asked "It's because he's black, isn't it?" And he said, "Yeah." Refreshingly honest. [The Blaze]

We sure do love Fox News, don't we? Especially when reporter Megyn Kelly goes up against pompous windbag and political strategist James Carville. They're pretty evenly matched, and she appears more amused than irritated with him. Very classy. [Mediaite]

Finally, the NAACP is holding a march to protest voter identification laws, and is instructing marchers that they will have to bring a form of identification. [The Federalist Papers]

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

Sunday, February 09, 2014

“It was fifty years ago today ...” Why The Beatles Matter

Fifty years ago tonight, the Beatles did their first televised performance in America, on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. They had already been together for several years, and had already released at least two albums the previous year, one in the United States. They had even made their first hit single, Please Please Me. But 1964 was the year that really put them on the map, and into the mainstream of American pop culture.

People can go on at great length as to the influence of "the four lads from Liverpool" on popular music. While they certainly did not invent rock and roll, they are responsible to a large extent for the genre as we know it today. To understand that, and to know why one major label actually rejected their audition two years earlier, is to understand the state of that genre for five years prior to that time.

There is, of course, the conventional wisdom; that the tragic death of Texas rocker Buddy Holly, just five years earlier almost to the day of the Beatles' USA debut -- it was memorialized in 1971 by Don McLean's "American Pie" as "the day the music died" -- signaled an end of innocence for popular music, if only for the white audiences. The raucous rockabilly beat that came out of the white musicians of Memphis, gave way to a smoother, more polished sound of Pat Boone and Frankie Avalon, while the Motown sound, with James Brown leading the way, went in its own direction.

Then again, as Elijah Wald writes for CNN:

In fact, the rock 'n' roll scene had become increasingly integrated through the early 1960s, to the point that in late 1963 Billboard magazine stopped publishing separate pop and R&B charts because so many of the same records were on both.

Be that as it may, by 1962, it was apparent to the music industry, that "guitar bands" were already a thing of the past. Small wonder, then, that Decca Records dismissed the Beatles' audition demo that year. This wasn't the direction the music was going, and these boys, however hard-working, however optimistic, simply didn't fit the narrative. Few would have guessed that Capitol Records would have made the right choice in picking them up only two years later for American distribution.

While the Beatles did not introduce white kids to black music, they went a long way towards making more respectable for mainstream distribution. It was no longer just "Negro music," the sound of a particular demographic, but "rock and roll" that was for all with ears to hear. The would-be rockers in port cities like Liverpool scooped up the 45rpm singles by black artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, brought to their shores by British seamen returning from America, and boys like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, already teamed up with a skiffle band known as The Quarrymen (skiffle being a jazzed up form of jug band or folk rock made popular by artists like Lonnie Donegan), listened to every line, and copied every riff they heard.

The "fab four" were not the first to bring together the Negro sounds of rhythm and blues out of Detroit and Chicago, with the white sounds of rockabilly out of Memphis and Nashville. But under the influence of manager Brian Epstein, and the artistic genius of veteran producer George Martin, the band lent a degree of light and shade heretofore unknown to the emergent genré, as if unconsciously inculcating centuries of European culture. Critics would still dismiss them as a passing fad, but a few musicologists noticed a certain sophistication to their arrangements, both instrumental and vocal. Even classical music scholars such as Peter Schickele have found melodic similarities between early Lennon-McCartney compositions and various classical works.

The Beatles were not the mere fabrication of promoters, picked off the street with good looks and no talent; they were, at least in their essential form, a collective creature of their own making. There were no backup singers, no anonymous horn sections, no army of songwriters manufacturing creations for the uncreative (the occasional covers of R&B standards notwithstanding). What you saw was the whole package, on the packagers' own terms. No compromising with commercialism, but the other way around. Even trading in the slicked-back hair and the leather jackets, for the "pudding basin" haircuts and the matching suits and cravats, was their own brainchild, or at least that of Epstein, who followed a hunch for a trendsetter, by which they made their own mark on haute couture, and the culture at large.

As time went on, four young men who became overnight sensations in their early- and mid-twenties would come to terms with their sudden wealth, and their coming of age. With that would be the pull in different directions. There has been much speculation over the years, and more will be written anew, as to whether they would have lasted past the end of the decade, were it not for John Lennon's encounter with an older woman, an avant-garde conceptual artist from Japan by way of New York, by the name of Yoko Ono, who consumed John's life from their first meeting, and whose relationship has been said by some to be the catalyst of the band's demise. But the truth is, Yoko or no Yoko, all four of them were already on divergent paths. It would be some years after the tragic assassination of Lennon in December of 1980, that the remaining three would appear together in a television documentary, remembering their lost comrade, and singing the melodies together that they once knew.

It was the closest to a "Beatles reunion" the world would ever know. The opening segment begins here, with the video clip immediately above (and part two of twelve gets even better) ...

Friday, February 07, 2014

FAMW: Obligatory “Super Bowl Ads” Review

For the last several years, we at man with black hat have reviewed the television commercials for the Super Bowl. The game itself is the most-watched sporting event on television, and quite possibly the most-watched program of any type, making advertising space an expensive commodity. For last year's event, the average cost of a 30-second advertisement was around $4 million. The ads have become a phenomenon in their own right, apart even from the game.

The ads have also become a bellwether for trends in popular culture, and are thus not without controversy. There are so many to review, but we will take this occasion to highlight five of them.

The USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter is an annual survey taken of the commercials in a live poll. Its most popular-rated commercial this year was that of (who else?) Budweiser, who also won last year's Meter. This year's submission is about the special friendship that develops between a puppy from an adoption agency and a Clydesdale horse. Naturally it has a happy ending, for both the puppy and the horse. The ad is set to "Let Her Go" by Passenger.

That one was a tear jerker. This next one, not so much.

Coca-Cola featured young people singing "America the Beautiful" in languages in addition to English, and included what appears to be a young Arab girl wearing a hijab, or head covering. Worn as a sign of modesty among women in the Arab world, regardless of religion, more than a few wingnuts accused the company not only of being unpatriotic, but of pandering to Islamic extremism.

Actually, the Coke ad was less unpatriotic than it was absurd. A national anthem, while often officially rendered in more than one language (Canada's in English and French, Philippines' in English, Spanish, and Tagalog), that of the United States is customarily sung only in English, which makes this confusing from a marketing standpoint. Why does singing an anthem that is a sign of our unity become a means to highlight our differences? Pandering, yes, but less to good will among Americans of diverse origins, than to the appearance of political correctness.

(Personally, I really don't care; I'm a Pepsi man myself.)

As if to compensate for a supposed lack of patriotism elsewhere, this year's ad for Chrysler features folksinger-songwriter Bob Dylan extolling pride in American workmanship. A bankrupt city like Detroit obviously needs all the help it can get, but this attempt would have been dismissed a generation ago as "selling out to the man," probably even by the very guy doing the ... well, the selling out. Then again, there are the gritty scenes of old diners and blue-collar workers in dingy pool halls, contrasted with sepia-toned street scenes of luxurious black cars with gleaming chrome and ... is that Bob Dylan stepping out of one?

There were a few surprises (more pleasant than the above), such as the one for General Mills' Cheerios cereal, which just happened to show a bi-racial couple and their little girl. "Gracie" is informed that she is going to have a baby brother. In return for the news, she wants a puppy. Some talking heads expected a conservative backlash, forgetting that the hoopla over bi-racial families has essentially disappeared from American society. Even the US Census Bureau has begun to allow for multi-racial classification. Relax, everybody. The right wingers got over it, as if they ever had to.

Hmmm, a puppy. Maybe she and the Clydesdales can do some business.

Of course, the Super Bowl would not be complete without a Doritos contest, where people make up commercials and the winner gets theirs on the air. For this year's pick, Mister Smith is in for a surprise when Jimmy invites him into the time machine. It's amazing what kids can do with cardboard boxes these days.

There's more where those came from Go to the website for USA Today's Super Bowl XLVIII Ad Meter, and get more than you bargained for, courtesy of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Loose Lips in the Loggia (Saints Titus and Paul Miki and Companions Edition)

Earlier this week, the Holy Father met Philomena Lee, who as a young girl was forced to give up her child born out of wedlock by an order of grumpy old Irish nuns, and whose life was portrayed by Dame Judi Densch in the Oscar-nominated movie that bears her name.

Meanwhile, here's what's bouncing around the bandwidth of True Believers lately:

In an account somewhat related to the above, a woman who bore a child out of wedlock was fired from her teaching job at a Catholic school, ostensibly for violating her contract. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about many things in life. Deacon Greg Kandra describes the other one. (As this is published, no word regarding lowering the boom on the child's father.) [The Deacon's Bench]

Speaking of a right AND wrong way to do something, we see that a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic diocese in Canada wants to introduce the Kiss of Peace to the faithful in the Divine Liturgy. (Remember what we said: right way, wrong way.) [Edmonton Eparchy]

Our favorite Patheos potty-mouth is at it again, because if there's one way to bring a point home about preventing the sacraments from becoming mere rites of passage, it's to drop the bomb (at the bottom of the page) on the parents responsible. Content warning. [The Crescat]

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Patheos, Leah Libresco reports on ... oh, never mind that. Why does anything described as “a modest proposal” end up being anything but modest? [Unequally Yoked]

What do you do when you are the last bastion of defense for Catholic Tradition, and attacking the Pope gets tiresome? You lend a platform to someone who attacks one of the great Catholic novelists of the last century, while claiming that he doesn't actually speak for you. (Yoda says: "Clever, that last part it is.") [Rorate Caeli]

We recently reported on the Pope making the cover of Rolling Stone. In the accompanying cover story, they may have gotten a few things wrong. Nine, to be exact. [The Week]

Finally, for those of you who are convinced that Michael Voris is some sort of lackey for the über-trads, we can put that to rest, with proof to the contrary from last fall, as he depicts the Rosary as having twenty mysteries. Of course, we all know better, don't we? [man with black hat]

Well, that's our story and we're stickin' to it. Remember to attend Holy Mass this Sunday. Until the next chattel of church chat, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Monreale Cathedral

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Imagine a drone flying into one of the great cathedrals of Europe. On the other hand, you don't have to. Kathy Schiffer reported recently on the commissioning by the Archdiocese of Monreale (Sicily) for a videographer to fly a videocam-bearing drone through the cathedral, obtaining an impressive view of its Byzantine mosaics created during the late Middle Ages.

(H/T to La Repubblica.)

Monday, February 03, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (St Blaise Edition)

We've got a fully-featured segment for this not-just-another-manic-Monday. The Super Bowl may be over, but Uncle Jay explains how the news is pretty much like the NFL every day, except without Bruno Mars in the middle. (By the way, "constituents" is misspelled.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Speaking of being a good sport, remember when the Houston Astrodome, not to mention astroturf, was all the rage? Well, the fake grass may be gone, but the stadium is still with us, but what do we do with something that was abandoned well before its shelf life ran out? [Gizmodo]

There may not be a fourth segment to the "Back To The Future" saga, but they might make a musical out of it. Wonder how they'll handle the hoverboard chase scene. [ITV News]

Have you ever wondered how much snow it would take for school to be closed? It depends on where you live, and if you click on the map, you can find out where the line is drawn in your neck of the woods. (In the Nation's capital, by the way, depending on which end of town, it's anywhere from one to three inches.) [The Atlantic]

Elsewhere on the schoolhouse beat, in Utah, they're throwing away kids' lunches because the parents didn't keep up the payments. One says no one told them. The school says they sent notices out the wazoo. It's Utah. Kids are going hungry. Oh, the humanity! Film at eleven. [Fox News]

Meanwhile, officials in Illinois are cracking down on the illegal sale of cupcakes by eleven-year-old girls. Someone has to send these miscreants a message. [The Blaze]

Jon Stewart interviews former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the Affordable Care Act. The woman who said that they had to pass the bill to see what was in it can't explain what's in it, nor is she responsible for its not working out as planned. Just what the hell IS she responsible for? [Hot Air]

Congressman Henry Waxman has announced his retirement. There was dancing in the streets of Southern California, until they found out who was thinking of running to take his place. [Politico]

That's not the only case of someone desperate enough to run for Congress. Here's a guy going for the goal in four different states. What if he wins all of them? Hmmm ... [CNN]

Finally, in the wake of the Super Bowl last night (and speaking of the Astrodome), we listen to a discussion about whether it is right for cities to spend public money on stadiums for the National Football League franchises, especially when over half of the team owners are ranked on the Forbes billionaire list. [Reason.TV]

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

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Candlemas Day (or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)

“When the days
were completed
for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus
up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written
in the law of the Lord,
Every male that
opens the womb
shall be consecrated
to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice
of a pair of turtledoves
or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”

(Luke 2:22-24)

Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), exactly forty days after Christmas. In some traditions, the Christmas season officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, throughout the Catholic world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.

The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical Year.

The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.

In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:

In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, "If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks."

Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.

And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called ... the groundhog.

Today, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know.

You just can't argue with reasoning like that, don't you think?

Or don't you?