Sunday, December 31, 2017

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: 2017

Has anyone ever told you what “Auld Lang Syne” means? Probably not. But I will.

The words themselves are a Scottish Anglo-Gaelic* phrase meaning “old long since,“ or to put it roughly, “(for) old time’s sake.” The words of the song, sung every year at this time (and at the end of international Scout jamborees, I am told) are attributed to the Scottish poet Rober Burns in 1788, although the inspiration may be more complicated than that. So also with the tune, said to be an ancient Scottish folk melody, but also attributed to the sixteenth-century composer Davide Rizzio.

But enough about all that. Let's talk about me, and my year on this earth.


When a President of the United States is elected, a "Presidential Transition Office" is formed, to provide administrative and logistical support for both the incoming and outgoing political leadership, and also for planning the inauguration. I had the distinct honor of being assigned to provide audiovisual support for the Transition Team, which amounted to taking the official temporary portraits of most of the major cabinet appointees. That means I got to meet them.

Some were more personable than others. The general currently serving as the White House Chief of Staff noticed my Eagle Scout pin, and congratulated me (twice) and saying it was "a really big deal." I also met a former National BSA President, now the Secretary of State. (“From one Eagle to another, good luck, sir.”)

But the biggest thrill was meeting the former Governor of Texas and current Secretary of Energy, Richard Perry. He is also an Eagle Scout (Class of 1964, the last year before the service project requirement was added), and we must have spent at least ten minutes talking about our experiences in earning Scouting's highest award. Most of them spent less than ten minutes getting their picture taken, as they were generally in a rush between appointments.

That was "a really big deal" for me, obviously. I'll never forget these casual encounters in the course of my work, with men who would go on to make history.

I have undergone a transition of my own in the past decade, from being a graphic designer (or as they call it in the government, a "Visual Information Specialist," to a photographer and video producer-director (also known as an "Audiovisual Production Specialist." I had trained to be a web designer, but when they told me I wasn't going to do that after all, I noted that software applications for video editing were very similar to those of animation, and that was my foot in the door. It would seem that I exceeded all expectations, and can say upon my retirement that I won't retire as a relic of past skill sets, but as a winner who adapted to the times. My final years as a full-time professional will be my greatest. Soli Deo gloria!

That's a "really big deal" all by itself.


I started playing the guitar more often, after more than a decade of playing it rarely. There's a long story behind that one, mostly about life itself getting in the way. But no more. After waiting for so many years, I finally got my dream guitar. I also got a Washburn parlor guitar for playing around the house, possibly at coffeehouse gigs or open mic nights, or other places where towing a full-size axe is less than opportune.

But I still have to find the time to practice. That's why I'm keeping at least one parlor guitar on a stand right in the living room so that it can beckon me to commune with it more easily. Yeah, that's the ticket.

This has been the year following the passing of my mother, and the effect on the dynamics of the family is somewhat noticeable. We will always be a family, but with the coming of age of a new generation, the siblings are more inclined to withdraw to their individual households. Mom and her sisters were always very close, and the reunions on the farm with dozens of cousins are a great memory of my childhood. I wonder how different it will be for us.

In fact, I imagine it will be this way for most, as more and more families limit themselves to one or two children, and as those children eschew the very idea of marriage when they become adults. What will the very notion of "family" mean in this world? Where will we go for the ties that bind us?


I didn't vote for either major candidate in the most recent Presidential election. I saw more similarities than I did differences with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. On one hand, Trump is less likely to do any serious damage to our way of governance then would Clinton, precisely because he is not a Washington insider. Clinton would be clever enough to get away with what the Founding Fathers referred to as "high crimes and misdemeanors," and she has already demonstrated her dubious skill in this respect, while Trump lacks the gamesmanship necessary to get away with much of anything.

Republicans assume they won the election. They did not. 2016 was less a case of the Republicans winning than it was the status quo losing. All the "experts" on cable news channels were absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton was on the path to victory as the Election Day wore on, right up until the votes from Wisconsin came in. The most the "Grand Old Party" can claim for bragging rights, is that the leadership of evangelical Christians were gullible enough to back a self-admitted Hefneresque playboy to the Oval Office, who lacks the self-control necessary to bring a sense of dignity to that office. And yet, whatever can be said about him, he has already demonstrated every intention of doing what he set out to do. America knows exactly what it's getting from their forty-fifth President, and with unemployment down and consumer confidence up, he may yet prove to be a workable solution.

Now if he can just keep his foot out of his mouth, and let his Chief of Staff get the West Wing under control ...


For more than twelve years, my service to Scouting was as a local Commissioner, which is basically a liaison function between the Boy Scouts of America as a corporation, and the local units. It used to be about helping those units, but it has become about shuffling paper, meeting quotas, and earning the local Executive officer his next bonus.

So, after a rather unpleasant encounter with one of those Executives, I gave up on ever sitting on an Eagle Board of Review, and joined a regular Scout Troop. I would only join a unit sponsored by a Catholic institution so that I would not have to deal with the recent changes in the membership policy. I was accepted by the Troop sponsored by the cathedral parish, ostensibly as a "Religious Award Counselor," but officially as an Assistant Scoutmaster. With the end of my first year, I am finally getting a taste of real Scouting, right in the trenches with the boys who need Scouting.

The nice thing about affiliating at the ground level is that you don't have to deal with the politics of adults in Scouting (and yes, there is such a thing), which helps you to remember why you actually signed up in the first place.


With the advent of the weblog, and the concept of "Catholic blogging" at the start of this century, there have been several benchmark events. 2002 saw its blossoming in the face of the scandals within the Church, both in Boston and beyond. By the end of the first decade, blogging was finally being taken seriously by traditional publishing media, and you didn't have to already be a celebrity with the latter to lead the way. With the departure of Simcha Fisher and Mark Shea from the National Catholic Register (and this is not the occasion for the details therein), we saw the waning of the phenomenon that was the "celebrity Catholic." And for several years, a disturbing byproduct of "the Francis effect" has set even faithful Catholics against one another.

More on that later as well.


I turned sixty-three years old just three days ago. And it was with this year that I began to see a light at the tunnel. It was a decision made easier with my mother passing into eternity, and the four of us discovered the extent of our inheritance. I am by no means a millionaire, and it is tied up in a portfolio of investments. We all retained the brokerage that managed it for our parents, and hopefully, this will compensate for what I was unable to do for a number of years. Now all I have to do is not screw things up.

It was the best of years, the worst of years, all in all, not just another year.

And so it goes.

* Essentially an earlier form of an English dialect, not quite the same as pure Gaelic, but with vocabulary native to Scotland. Or something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog here, David. As for the song, we learned the meaning of those words back when schools taught rather than indoctrinated.