Monday, October 31, 2011

More historical dumbness courtesy of our enlightened age

So my eyes catch a story, again on ABC News, about a Halloween Costume that has sparked outrage.  It is an evacuee's costume being sold in Britain.  There wasn't a picture, but apparently it was supposed to bring back images of the British children who were famously evacuated from their homes during the Blitz. 

But read the story.  Read this part:
“All that’s missing is a yellow star,” Julia Rubin of the Styleite wrote. 
Any costume that’s even remotely related to the Holocaust sets off a nerve, but the Huffington Post reports that the costume is intended as a way to teach kids British history and is not specifically for Halloween. Evacuee Day is commemorated in primary schools and museums across England, marking the evacuation of millions of schoolchildren from Britain’s cities to escape German bombing attacks during WWII.
You get that?  It's a British costume about British kids doing something courageous in British history.  And the first thing you read?  BAM!  You can't mock the Holocaust!!

What the hell does it have to do with the Holocaust?  I know, I know.   The Nazis were evil and killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.  And America nuked Japan and rounded up Japanese citizens.  And thanks to Saving Private Ryan, we know that Americans did brave things on D-Day before going on killing sprees and gunning down defenseless Germans.  And that's about it.  Anything else in the 20th century?  Any real studies of the other tens of millions of humans who were butchered for any one of a thousand reasons?   Nope.  Just that.  You know it's bad when the Huffington Post has to stand up and attempt to bring some perspective.

So when our brilliant and educated elites see something like this, they obviously assume it must have something to do with the only subjects they've bothered to study or care about.  Again, despite all assurance to the contrary, I'm not 100% convinced that the Internet Age has made us smarter.

Dumbest Halloween post of the day

So I'm reading this little bit by ABC news.  The usual 'water is wet' let's make a story where there isn't one approach to journalism.  And the usual gang of suspects jumps into the comments section to do everything from debate rationally to throw out idiocy and stupidity.  The best one I read?  It had to be this:
"All of the seasonal Holidays are pagan in origin. When the christian church was created by Constantine in the 2nd Century, it embraced these holiday dates and tied them into their own created holidays, such as Christmas, All Souls and All Saints Days. This was done to try to bring the Celts and other pagan communities into the church for the purpose of politically unifying Europe and the middle east into one empire under Constantine. The Pope was created as the spiritual/ political head, reporting to the Emporor and remained so until Henry VIII created his own church and spiritual head who reported to Henry."
Wow.  Where to begin.  Not that the Catholic Church was started by Constantine, but apparently the whole Christian church was started by him.  And of course all of those holidays Christians came up with were just mirroring pagan practices (as opposed to their own celebrations based on Jewish customs and celebrations in light of the Christ event).  That's an old one.  Wrong, but old.  And no, Constantine did not live in the 2nd century, just in case some of my more informed readers were thrown off by the timeline.  Nor did the Pope answer to the emperor until Henry VIII. 

When I read things like this on the Internet, I hope and pray that it's just some kid still in elementary school trying to act big.  But then, it makes me wonder what they are teaching in elementary schools. 

Symptoms of a dying civilization

If you're looking for evidence that America, and indeed Western Civilization, is beginning to wheeze its last gasps of breath before passing into the hereafter of history, you need go no further than this story.  A boy who's been dressed in dresses by his parents is shocked that the Girl Scouts will not have him.  The Girl Scouts, not exactly a bastion of traditional values, thought it was progressive enough.  Turns out not.  Gay Rights advocates and academics (as if there's a difference there) jump in to remind us that all this gender stuff is the result of ages old bad-think.

Of course, there's a little throwback to old time liberalism's mantra of 'it's all relative.'  But fool me once you know.  I stopped believing in such rubbish as I saw the apostles of tolerance and diversity increasingly seek to eradicate and oppress anyone who fails to conform to their dogmatic doctrines.  So while 'it's all relative' might help win the argument in a society that would gladly don the chains of servitude for a little sex, down the road we'll see yet one more case of yesterday's progressive principle tossed aside in favor of brutal censorship, oppression, and demands for goodthink.  Whether or not the rest of our society sees it or not will determine if this symptom points to a sickness that can be overcome, or one that will eventually overcome all of us.

Cain opponents forget the times we live in

Apparently Herman Cain may have sexually harassed some women back in the day.  Of course, back in the day that might have meant something.  But you see, this is the PC period in American history.  Not politically correct, but post-Clinton.  Remember, during the later phase of the Clinton scandal, after he was forced to admit he had lied to America and falsely accused the GOP of lying about him, we were informed by our brightest and smartest that all this had to do with sex, and so was unimportant.  It was sex.  And with that, who cares?  Why, pundits and supporters actually went on to insist we Americans needed to get with the times.  Who cares about character, truth, perjury, values, morals?  As long as Clinton was giving us the greatest economy in the history of the universe*, that's all we should care about, right?  After all, it's the economy stupid!

Never before has a single presidency done more to destroy the moral fabric of American society than the Clinton Administration.  He showed that a massive swath of our country was willing to sell its birthright for a bowl of stew.  And ironically, it ended up losing that stew as many said we would.

*FWIW, as early as 1998, some economists were suggesting our economy wasn't really that wonderful.  They were concerned that much of the purchasing was being done on debt, personal and corporate debt, and if it didnt' turn around, everything could blow up in our face.  But what did they know. 

The Motley Monk appears to be shocked by the obvious

Over at The American Catholic, the 'Motley Monk' laments the lack of God at the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial.  I'm shocked that anyone would be shocked.  King has become the icon of the post-Western world.  Seldom is he called Reverend, the press and most thinkers preferring Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.  That he was a churchman is, of course, troubling to the whole notion that we should keep wrong religions out of the public domain.  Most, when confronted with this, explain it away by saying that the parts of King that are praiseworthy had nothing to do with his religion, and everything to do with his right thinking about Civil Rights. 

Again, I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: there is nothing more revealing of the narrative set forth by the post-moder left than MLK.  He not only represents what they will do to promote their doctrine, but how they plan on dealing with those issues that do not conform to their doctrines.

It's All Hallows Eve

That's right, the holiday commonly known as Halloween, with pagan roots handed down by way of the Christian liturgical calendar, is upon us.  Most Americans, including not a few within the Catholic tradition, probably see this as a time to get the little'uns dressed up as ghouls and ghosts and goblins.  Or more likely costumed in the form of the latest cultural or movie fad.  Possibly, if keeping up with the Joneses, seeing their kids getting sexed up, as is the trend in adult costumes.  Getting candy.  Getting drunk. Partying. 

The nostalgia factor is difficult to grasp, that's for sure.  As America continues to flounder due to its lack of roots in anything beyond the latest smartphone technology, hedonism has become the overarching trademark of American life, mixed with consumerism and narcissism.  Thus it's tough to remember that, for the child of the Western Tradition, this day actually has some religious connotations, if only because of its proximity to All Saints Day, and All Souls Day which follows fast on its heels.

Yes, much of it, even historically, was a result of the assimilation of non-Christian traditions and customs.  Contrary to popular Hollywood belief, the Catholic Church didn't butcher and slaughter any idea that came from outside of its cloistered walls.  Throughout its history, many traditions, ideals, practices, and customs from the pagan world made their way into the stream of the faith.  Christmas trees anyone?  This unofficial holiday is no different. 

While the history of Halloween and all of the associated images and icons is beyond my concern or care right now, it's enough to remember that behind all the conflicting stories of where jack-o-lanterns came from, behind all of the diverse theories about the level of influence that ancient pagan practice had on this day, behind all of the usual scholarly squabbles over the precise method by which this European custom came to America, is a very simple truth.*  That truth is that, for the Christian, today is simply the day before that grand celebration of the Saints of the faith.  For all the saints, including those who don't have their own particular day or recognition, tomorrow is a time to rejoice and celebrate that great cloud of witnesses and the peace and bliss to which they point.

It's appropriate, of course, that the evening before such a celebration of the promise of salvation would find its antithesis in a reflection on the darker truths of the universe.  A time when death is dwelt upon, the powers of darkness are reflected upon - and dutifully mocked - and we maintain a healthy reminder of just what forces exist outside of the covering grace of God.  And when kept in perspective, the nightly buffoonery and frolicking, the candy and caramel apples, seem altogether acceptable.

It's when we discard tomorrow, and see tonight as the end all; when we see it as a time to rejoice in hedonism and debauchery, when Madison Avenue steps in and pushes the sexting up of our kids in order to cash in on a expendable childhoods, when life is sold cheap, and we applaud the mutilation of life and the living for our own gratification, that the holiday has lost its luster.  Indeed, it has lost its one possible meaning.  That meaning is that the dark forces can indeed be mocked and even laughed at, because we have been given a salvation that has been passed down through the ages.  A salvation that many before us have obtained, and through the sacramental life of the Church triumphant, we have an avenue through which we can wake up in the morning, and remind ourselves that it was all a passing moment.  We can remember that the real existence is that which will take us beyond this mortal coil, and into the arms of the Living God for eternity.  That is the celebration of All Hallows' Day.

So Happy All Hallows Eve.  Rejoice in the promise of salvation before us.  Remind ourselves of the present darkness and the powers and principalities of this age, the fate that awaits those who would so willingly reject the gracious gift of God, and from there we can throw back the tides of rampant consumerism, debauchery, decadence, hedonism, and similar philosophical children of darkness, and enjoy a ghost or goblin for what it really represents: a way of making little the darkness which cannot withstand the Light.  Oh, and enjoy those Hershey bars in the process.

*For a nice little look at the origins of the holiday from a non-secular, non-skeptic's perspective, you could do worse than this little article.

Congratulations Luke Fickell

And of course the rest of the Buckeyes.  What a win!  Giving back to Wisconsin a little dose of what they've given us the last few seasons, Ohio State finally did something worth celebrating.  Can there be any other sports program with more to overcome than the Buckeyes this year?  And poor Mr. Fickell.  What a season it's been.  But Saturday night was a night to celebrate, even if the rest of the season doesn't pan out. 

In one of the most exciting last 4 minutes of football I've seen in ages, reminiscent of the famous NFL Chargers-Dolphins match from decades past, Ohio State and Wisconsin battled it down to the wire.  And in plays not exactly on par with Ohio State standards, the Buckeyes pulled it through.

Not being a football guru, I'll leave the finer commentary to the experts.  But one thing I noticed?  Over the last years, especially since the disastrous National Championship against Florida, Ohio State had been losing its ability to overcome loss of momentum.  Jim Tressel, whom I still admire, seemed just as powerless to stop the changing winds and turn them back into our favor.  This was especially true in the 'Big' games.  All it took was one fumble, one interception, one explosive touchdown by the other team, and you could almost see the point in which Ohio State lost its momentum.

But last night, when the formula looked too familiar, when images of Nebraska were dancing in our heads, and the typical story line of 'Ohio States blows another lead' seemed inevitable, something happened.  Somehow the Buckeyes and Fickell were able to overcome Hall's dropped punt, and rally.  And rally in a way that almost made you forget you were watching Ohio State football.  At least in the last few seasons.

So congrats boys, you all did it.  What a game.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ohio University Students embrace the Glorious Censorship

Now the essence of the Glorious Censorship is that in all things sex, drugs and bathroom humor there should be unlimited freedom and liberty.  In everything else censorship, conformity, oppression and extermination of wrong-think. 

One of the driving engines behind this is the idea that we should be free to say and do anything we want ... as long as it doesn't offend anyone.  In this case, we're learning that Halloween costumes should not showcase 'racial stereotypes'.  Of course what they say are racist stereotypes could once have been culturally distinctive outfits*.  But for young people growing up in a nation that considers racism as the only evil in the world, and concludes that anything said about anyone non-American must be racist based (since America is always a racist nation doncha know), then obviously a girl dressed like a geisha, or a person dressed in Mexican garb, must only be a racist.

This, of course, despite the sad fact that racism, like religion, played a proportionately small part in the tens of millions butchered and slaughtered in the last century.  Fact is, most atrocities arose from the desire to punish and purge people over political, social, national, and economic philosophies and ideals, along with the usual greed and lust for power that has plagued mankind from the beginning.

In any event these are American college students, raised to believe America is ever and always a racist nation, everything it does is racism, and racism is the sole cause of suffering in the world.  So they embrace the logical conclusion of post-modern thanking: Censorship.  It's time to demand that we stop offending people.

Naturally, we all know that if we don't do anything that might offend someone, we'll end up doing nothing at all.  Realizing this, we will have to qualify this, if not officially, by simply saying we can't offend the important people.  Offending the bad or unimportant people is just fine.  Especially people who stand in the way of our right to sex, drugs, and more bathroom humor.  And that, kiddies, is where the oppression and terror of tomorrow is born as a new group of young'uns determine just who does have stars on their bellies, and who doesn't.

*By the way, this is all after I know some folks who went to a Halloween party the last weekend.  What were some of the costumes?  One was a Latin American dressed in 'stereotypical' dress (he based it on a costume worn in a restaurant he knew of back in Mexico), and a Catholic girl dressed up in a mocked-up nun outfit.  And? 

More evidence that the Internet might make us stupid

One of my observations is that the Internet has not made us smarter, more reflective, more astute, or more of anything except apathetic and lazy about facts and data.  Don't know why.  Maybe it's because so much information is there, we've become numbed to it all.

Anyone over the age of 40 can remember a time before VCRs (those are the things that existed before DVDs).  Likewise, there was a time when Cable TV meant having about 12 channels or so.  Typically in those days, certain shows and specials came but once a year, and when they did, they brought great cheer!  So the Wizard of Oz was shown once a year, and when it was shown, it was an event.  It was right up there with a birthday, or going to Cedar Point, or any other special event of the year.  Same with holiday specials.   It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, why the list is endless.  These were events.  They were special.  They meant something.

But when Cable TV turned to an endless stream of channels able to show the same show a hundred times in a season, or you could see the same show a dozen times on a dozen different channels, things changed.  When you could buy the Christmas special and watch it in June, or August, or March, or you could watch it fifty times before Christmas, it wasn't the same.  Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt.  And that is what happened with so many specials (which might be the appeal of 'Reality' TV, it is, after all, one season only and ever). 

Perhaps the Internet has done the same.  With so much information at Google's fingertips, it has lost its 'umph'.  It has lost its value.  Of course there could be other reasons.  For instance, with so many websites in the world, it's not hard to hunker down and become part of a rather small slice of the human experience while convinced you are right due to the number of others on that site with whom you agree.  If you are convinced that the 9/11 attacks were part of a vast, right-wing conspiracy, then you could spend your entire life surfing the sites dedicated to that rather small, extreme viewpoint, all the while convinced that the facts are overwhelming and that no doubt endless hordes of people see it your way.

Maybe there are other reasons.  Maybe I'm off by a mile.  I just notice that there is a shocking lack of depth and perspective in the Internet world.  One way this is manifested is that lack of distance we tend to run when it comes to looking back on things.  I'm not sure why, but for the Interenet generation, history seems to stop sometime around 1992.  Certainly cultural and social history. 

When I was growing up in the pre-Internet days of the 70s and 80s, we were aware of things that happened more than 20 years earlier.  We were aware of King Kong.  Of Lon Chaney, Sr.  Of Big Band era music and Bing Crosby.  Those things seemed ancient, seemed old, seemed beyond our time.  But we knew they were there, and we had a respect for them.  In fact, many of those old personalities still played a roll in our own time. 

Yet when I see things spoken of today, when I read reviews or postings about pop culture, entertainment, social trends, you would think there was no world before 1992.  Case in point.  Here's a bold article on Yahoo News (I know, I know), offering to reflect on the Best Halloween-Themed TV shows Ever.  That's Ever.  As in, you know, Ever.  But what's the oldest show there?  Rosanne.  Rosanne in 1992.  Most of them are within the last few years at best.

Sure, this trend has been going on for some time, and the world of Entertainment News is not exactly high quality journalism at its finest.  And if it were just this, or similar listings, I would shrug it off.  After all, I can remember old VH1 'Countdowns' of the greatest Rock Songs of All Time!  I was always shocked at how the list moved so much.  I thought it if was the greatest of all time, most of the tops songs should be the same every year.  And they almost never were. 

But it reflects a greater tendency I've notice to isolate ourselves to small, shallow perspectives on not just the history of TV, but the history of everything.  For some, in some articles, pieces, blogs, it appears that the Internet has given rise to the tendency of seeing five years ago as the beginning of prehistory.  Maybe the reasons I threw out there have something to do with it.  I just know that as long as people speak of Ever as going all the way back to 20 years ago, I'm not going to automatically assume that the Internet age has therefore made us smarter.  Maybe it hasn't made us dumber.  But it sure doesn't suggest any increase in our overall ability to grapple with the world of knowledge to which we've been exposed.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Connecticut lawmaker does the stupid thing

So  Rep. Tim Larson, a Connecticut lawmaker, has met with parents and determined that it's time to change the date of Halloween.  Why?  Because those weeknight tricks-or-treats are making it tough on the kids who need to get their sleep for school.  Of course simply allowing individual communities to move the dates of trick-or-treating to a weekend won't do.  This is the 21st century.  We want the highest possible level of government passing laws to mandate everyone's non-sexual behavior. 

The fact that Halloween is actually based on something, based on ancient pagan religious practice, and brought down to our culture through the liturgical calendar of the historic Christian faith, is not even worth considering.  This is not just the post-modern age, it is the post-modern Internet age.  And with each passing day, I'm more and more convinced that the molehill of knowledge the Internet provides is overwhelmingly eclipsed by the mountain of ignorance and apathy toward facts and data that it engenders. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Once in a red moon

We were out the other night when the moon was full and the crisp autumn air couldn't help but turn our thoughts toward witching things and creepier things.  I whipped out my dumb phone and quickly snapped this little shot as the clouds departed for a few and set up a spectacular shot of the moon.

Why it turned red, I don't know.  But that only added to the eeriness and that feeling that things were about to go bump in the night.  Not a blue moon, but one almost as rare as my posts have been lately.  Which is all to say that I'm hoping to get back into things.  It's been a long year, a rough year, a turbulent year.  But things are being decided upon which could seriously alter the course of our future, and may open up more chances to toss out ideas here and in other forums.  I'm also seriously rethinking bringing back the comments section.  I'll explain why at a later date.  I see that readership has, naturally, dropped over the last months as my contributions have faded away.  I understand.  But hopefully things will get back, and I'll have this old blog up and running in no time. 

Meanwhile, prepare for a haunting time as All Hallows Eve approaches, and the turn of seasons prepares to welcome that most joyous and wonderful time of the year!

Happy Sixteenth Birthday!

So our oldest is now sixteen.  Here he is preparing to extinguish the growing number of candles that adorn his cakes. 

And here is the family looking pensive at a cookout in our fire pit in the backyard, all part of the extended series of parties, celebrations, dinners, and events we attempted to put on around myriad obligations and commitments from school and other activities. 

I know I usually don't post things around this or that child, but I figured a sixteenth birthday was good enough reason.  Happy Birthday young man, you make us proud.  May God's blessings shine upon you this year, and in all the many years of your life.  May they be many and blessed indeed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest in peace Steve Jobs

By now I'm sure everyone knows that Steve Jobs has died. I can't imagine the world without the inventions of Steve Jobs.  It was Jobs, not Bill Gates, who was the archetypal success story of the new tech industry that so captured the imagination of a generation.  Beginning in a garage, he transformed the way the world would work forever.  For better or worse.  Nevertheless, in 1977 the idea of home computers still seemed to me more sci-fi than reality.  By the early 80s, as I entered high school, I began hearing and seeing more evidence that this new fad might be here to stay.  Sure, I was more focused on Atari and its Space Invaders cartridge.  But by my junior year, our school had two Apple IIs, and I was impressed by a fellow student, named Monty, who had his own computer at home.  I eventually got a Commodore 64, and honestly never had an Apple product.  Not until this decade that is.  But to say my life, like the life of anyone in the last 40 years, wasn't impacted by Steve Jobs is past unreal.  It was.  And now as the great equalizer brings him back to his Maker, I pray that eternal rest be granted unto him Lord.

Good to see

Looks like folks are beginning to stand up and defend Youcef Nadarkhani.  He's the fellow who has stood up to Iran and refused to deny his faith even if it means his death.  That's called being a martyr.  In this story, we see several in Western Christian communities starting to raise their voices.  It's dated from a rally on September 28, but still.  Nice to see Rick Warren getting into the act.   Several in Washington as well.  Still no word on Pope Benedict or the Vatican.  Supporters of the Church continue to assume, maintain, hope that this is due to secret behind the scenes meetings with Iran trying to free Pastor Nadarkhani.  I hope and pray that is the case.  In the meantime, prayers go out to him and his loved ones and all believers around the world falling to persecution and oppression for their faith.  I won't hold my breath for the ideologues and A-list celebrities who were so vocal during the Troy Davis hearings.