Monday, December 31, 2012

Thank goodness our Congress has its priorities straight

While the bulk of America is awaiting the possibility that our financial lives could go down the tubes, the House of Representatives thankfully took the rest of the day off to spend New Year's with their families.  I'm sure they'll take care of those lesser items of concern down the road.  Right now, they've done the important thing.  This was especially beneficial since they've recently been assured they'll get those all-important pay raises.  I try - and I mean I try - to not be fatally cynical about the state of our government.  But doggone it, they do make it difficult.

Blessings for the coming year

Since the newer, hipper New Year's Eve crew has decided to chuck Auld Lang Syne for the regionally specific New York, New York, I offer this little token of New Years of old.  Call me old fashioned, but I don't see a need to change things just to prove how hip I am for changing things.  Especially when it's a change that more or less says 'isn't there really only one place in America that matters?'  So since the other 99% of America that doesn't live in New York may want to sing something of yesteryear, here's Guy Lombardo, doing what he did so well.  Happy New Year everyone, may it bring better fortune and more blessings and be a damn sight better than the last one.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The games we play

At Christmastime at least.  We're a board game family.  From RISK to Catan to Monopoly, you name it - we like to play games as a family.  Following the ancient proverb that the family that plays together, stays together, we've logged in quite a few hours playing games over the years.  We like other things, but in recent years, finances have limited our travels and our excursions that come at a price.  This has made our stash of board games all the more valuable.

Each year, we seem to get at least a few games.  We have about three shelves filled with games in the basement, not counting Flames of War (my currently defunct hobby owing, once again, to our finances).  This year added a few more games to the mix, a few surprises and at least one stinker.  In the grand tradition of posts that mean nothing to anyone except me, the following are quick takes on the games we've had a chance to play.

Mansions of Madness
A game based on Lovecraft's bizarre horror fiction, this bad boy was actually from last year.  But things were a bit crazy then.  Not that they aren't now, we're simply more resigned to the fact that things are going to change, or we'll be homeless.  Last year, it was all just hitting us as jobs were being lost on the eve of the Christmas holidays.  So even though this was something we were looking for, we just never got around to playing it.  I've gone over the instructions, the boys are anxious, my wife is ready, so we'll know soon...

Apparently this gift, playing on my boys' love for all things fantasy and in keeping with this year's The Hobbit environment,  was actually a remake of a game from decades ago.  It was originally published in the 1970s by  the company TSR, that produced the infamous Dungeons and Dragons roll playing game.  This was an intro to that game I guess, and was meant to expose people to the gist of the roll playing version.  All I can say is, I first thought 'oh well' when I saw it, but must admit, it's one of the funnest new games I've played in years.
Another game I hadn't heard of, but was pleasantly surprised after playing.  At first I thought 'Pictionary' knock off, but found out it was a little different.  It's sort of Pictionary mixed with the old game of 'telephone', where one person whispers a secret, and it is passed around a circle of people until in the end, you see how far the secret got from the original.  Here, someone pulls a card, and then has to draw what the card says.  Then the next person writes what he or she thinks it is, and tries to draw it again, and so on.  Believe me, how The Godfather ended up being a moonwalk is something only this game can explain.  Even my Mom got into it and laughed till her sides ached.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Based exclusively on the Peter Jackson film, this board game sought to capture the scope and atmosphere of the movie's adaptation.  It failed miserably.  The real stinker of the year, this game left us, after almost two hours of playing, absolutely flummoxed.  The basic game, getting all 13 dwarves to the eagles' eyrie, was itself all but impossible even if it could be figured out.  But beyond that, the instructions were virtually non-existent, and what they said seldom matched the game-play   Elements were left unexplained, game components ended in dead ends, or contradicted each other.  All around, an almost embarrassing failure that was obviously a half-baked afterthought rushed through production in order to capitalize on the movie.  Like my oldest boy said, who alone has seen the film - it's about like the movie, overdone and under-planned.

So there you have it.  We received a few others, or at least the boys received a few.  We may play them, based on what they want to do.  There are other games as well, some we've had years and haven't played for a long time, and one we haven't played at all that we might have a chance to try.  We'll see.  But these are the ones so far, for all the billions in the world who were itching to find out our latest snowbound forms of entertainment.

Did I say Hollywood lacks creativity?

Yes, I've said it a million and three-quarters times.  You want proof you say?  Well, take a look at the stunning variety of movie posters advertising major Hollywood films that are clearly unique and inspired:

Sometimes I can't imagine what's keeping good old story time around the campfire from making a comeback.  Unless it might be global warming activists warning us that too many campfires could up our carbon footprints. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

You tell him Caped Crusader!

Image credit: Catholic Memes

Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?

No, it's not a wishful headline on CNN blog, it's the popularly quoted lament of King Henry II of England regarding that meddlesome Thomas a' Becket.  It's odd that so many days of Christmas are spent commemorating martyrs.  Just yesterday  we remembered the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents.  The day after Christmas, we honored St. Stephen the Deacon, famously martyred while St. Paul stood nearby holding the cloaks of those doing the stoning.  

It's an odd thing to unpack, the historic approach to Christmas.  If you look at the whole Christmas celebration, it's beyond even what Linus enlightens Charlie Brown about.  There's something very holistic about the Church's historic approach to the Incarnation.  Far from a simple throwaway holiday slapped on nearby pagan solstice festivals, it is a rather methodical approach reminding us of just what our faith is all about.  From the preparation of Advent, to the joy of the Nativity, to the Feast of Epiphany, it walks us through the important highlights.  

But along the way, we stop to reflect on a few of those who were true heroes of the faith, or at least who paid a price for the faith so many would be hard pressed to pay.  The message?  For all the gifts and giving, for all the wrapping and tinsel, for all the carols and after-Christmas sales, the real point is remembering what God did for us, while also throwing out a few days to remember what this cost to those around the event, or who believed in the event enough to pay the ultimate price.  It reminds us of the evil in the world that God had to save us from in the first place. 

Becket's martyrdom is one of the most famous of all, with pilgrimages to Canterbury being among the most popular in the Middle Ages.  Through this fact, and Chaucer's own writing on the subject, most people have at least heard something of the story, enough not to bother repeating here.  Oddly, the events would be repeated in some ways centuries later, when another St. Thomas ran afoul of another King Henry.  

In both of these cases, the crux of the issue was a man who was on friendly terms with a king, being forced to stand his ground on what he believed to be right.  In both cases, it was standing against someone who the respective Thomas actually liked, someone he considered a friend.  Sometimes, as Dumbledore points out, it's standing up to a friend that can be toughest of all.  And yet stand they did, even to the point of death.

This Christmas has brought attention to a couple feasts that are often overlooked.  The horror of Newtown put a different spin on the oft overlooked Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Our parish had a special service for that yesterday, quite moving with young people leading us in a rosary.  I wish more had come.  Today, we remember a man who, despite his close relationship with the ruling power, was forced to stand against the wishes of a monarch, a monarch with power of life and death.  In the case of both Thomases, they chose death rather than compromise.  As we will be heading into a new era in American History, where the first attempt to control religious thought from the Federal level will be enacted,  drawing on this day for inspiration couldn't hurt.

Will the Bishops really stand their ground?  I hope.  They've put so much on the line, if they back down now, expect all credibility - that which is left following the scandals and the general lack of fealty to Church teaching in the American Church - to go down the tubes.  But it will also demand courage from the Catholic faithful.  For it isn't just a bunch of Church hating atheists or barbarians at the gates who will be screaming loudest at the Bishops for resisting, it will be Catholics in the pews who have long ago cast aside the Church as only beneficial when it conforms to the latest progressive movement.  Yes, conservative Catholics can be guilty of the same, but this isn't their great hour.  The gauntlet has been thrown, and we will have to see what comes of those Catholics who have long embraced the post-Christian worldview.  Will they see the writing on the wall and join the cause?  Or will they stand alongside the growing menace in the east, and dare their friends and fellow Catholics to resist?  Or will there be those who do neither, and prefer to sit in the bleachers and cast scorn on everyone else for not being as hip as they are?

We'll have to see.  But for those who pray the Bishops stand their ground, and for those who are willing to take a similar stand, even if it costs a friend or two, we could do worse than looking to this day, when we remember a man who had much more to lose by standing firm.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Marc Barnes brings us up to date on opposition to the HHS mandate

As I've said before, I oppose the HHS mandate, because I believe it is a small step in the growing tendency to be tired of all this democracy and liberty garbage.  I've also been honest that my sympathies for the American Church leadership, that almost to a man supported Obama's healthcare overhaul as long as he didn't screw the Catholic Church, runs somewhat shallow.  After all, there were other aspects of the mandate that seemed to threaten individual liberties, and the same Bishops ballyhooing about their opposition to the HHS mandate thought nothing about throwing those other concerns under the bus (forgive me if I'm wrong in this generalization, but I've yet to have anyone point me to evidence to the contrary).

Still, I do oppose the principles behind the HHS mandate.  And I see it as a small but crucial step in that movement toward a post-democratic American nation.  Marc Barnes does a fine job explaining to the ill-informed just why the Catholic Church is so ticked off about the whole mandate design.

Nonetheless, he misses one crucial point.  It's a point I notice is missing on several Catholic blogs that are invested in these debates.  There seems to be a general sympathy toward the more progressive in many Catholic circles   Not that they all throw in with abortion rights or gay marriage or whatever, but their rage, their contempt, their anger, their righteous indignation seems only reserved for the traditionalist,  the Protestant Conservative, the Religious Right, and the issues that at times defined those conservative American movements.  Therefore, there is a tendency in some Catholic blogs to turn a more critical eye toward the arguments of the American Conservative than the American Progressive.  Oh, they oppose gay marriage here or abortion there, but they don't unpack, they don't micro-analyze every jot and tittle of a progressive mandate the way they might a more conservative agenda.

Thus, it appears that many Catholic bloggers have missed the fact that arguing against the HHS mandate by way of the First Amendment is an exercise in futility.  Why?  Because American progressives have, in many cases, rewritten the First Amendment, thanks largely in part to the Separation of Church and State emphasis that has been placed on it over the decades.  To many, Separation of Church and State was the end all to the Amendment,  the reason it existed.  It was not a means to the end, a principle upon which religious liberty could be achieved.  It was the reason the Amendment was written.

It didn't take long for that to go its logical ways, with the last decade or so witnessing a growing tendency among Progressives to add to the Amendment's purposes, whether it be to keep people with the wrong religion out of government, or to mandate a clear and obvious truth.  As Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains, it's not a case of legislating morality or advancing religious values, it's mandating Truth.  To embrace a particular view of religion, to advance gay marriage, to champion abortion rights or free contraceptives, therefore, are not moral views or values, they are Truth.  And not one person in the world opposes governments mandating Truth.

So as much as I enjoyed  and appreciated, Mr. Barnes' take on the issue, I couldn't help but know it would fall on deaf ears, especially if those ears believe that the First Amendment exists to ensure that Truth (read: Progressive Values) becomes the law of the land, and not some archaic notion that it existed to ensure the right to practice religion freely.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Never part of the Church year that was helpful to Hallmark greeting cards, or Madison Avenue marketing campaigns, it was nonetheless a real part of the Christmas Season for many ages.  It's a reminder that real religion is not the pie-in-the-sky fantasy land that so many critics suggest.  This year, unfortunately,  we've been forced to confront this forgotten part of Christmas through the horror of Newtown.  Truth be told, we should deal with it every year, for each day and each year, someone in the world experiences the same loss, the same sorrow, the same tragedy.  The media simply don't dwell on it and make it headline news.  So for those lost in Newtown, for all the innocents lost to the evils that men and women do, and for the grieving sorrow of those left behind, a chance to reflect and pray.

"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
King James Version

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rest in Peace General Schwarzkopf

General Schwarzkopf died.  The Patton of my generation, he was the last famous war hero.  Leading up to the first Gulf War, when Sean Lennon was remaking daddy's Give Peace a Chance, and Hollywood liberals were dousing state buildings with blood, and Peter Jennings was fearing boat loads of body bags, General Schwarzkopf proved them wrong.  Already there was a powerful stream of Down With America in our country, and knowing that the first Gulf War was all about oil, it wasn't hard for the anti-war crowd to attempt another peace riot era just like the good old days.  In many ways, it's what those ex-hippie Boomers had been hoping for.  I remember a college professor, still reminiscing about the crazy, hazy days at Haight-Ashbury, bemoaning the lack of passion in my generation.  Where is the anger? he once asked.  Anger?  What anger?  It was the late 80s.  Reagan had made an end run at Geneva, it looked to all like the Cold War could end peacefully, the economy was rebounding, there appeared to be hope again.  And once the Berlin Wall collapsed, the hope seemed justified.

So it must have been with great relief to all those liberals who had chaffed their way through the 80s now saw a perfect chance to rebel, that they grabbed the flags and flowers, and once again made a stand against the Evil Empire.  Added to it was the assurance that America, in all its post-Vietnam war glory, was a has been nation.  We didn't stand a chance   As a college graduate honor bound to join if there was to be the inevitable draft, I watched with trepidation as news cast after news cast predicted the mauling and shredding of our forces at the hands of a superior Republican Guard.

And then in stepped General Schwarzkopf.  Wearing his trademark fatigues, he exuded confidence and determination.  For a moment, he took us back, back past Oliver Stone's Platoon, back past the drug sopped troops of Vietnam, back past Hawkeye and B.J. lamenting the Korean Conflict, back to a time when America was proud of itself, and proud of its leaders who could win.  And win he did.  It was almost embarrassing the annihilation of Hussein's fabled elite Guard.  The war ended. There was no draft.  And that last gasp of a county passing its prime was taken, and enjoyed.

So thank you General Schwarzkopf.  He was not a simple poster child for this or that political agenda.  He stood outside of it.  He was a simple soldier doing his duty.  And for that, and the better part of our country's past that he represented, I will always be thankful.  Rest in Peace, and may your rest find you at your spirit's end.

Most ingenious nativity set!

Back at the beginning of Advent, Mark Shea posted a hilarious take on some of the worst (but sometimes most creative) nativity sets.  This was my favorite:

Ah Vivaldi

Who doesn't love Vivaldi's The Four Seasons?  Yet, after all these years, and despite a pretty hefty and eclectic music collection, I had never found the right performance worth getting.  This year, my adorable wife came through, and I can finally sit back and enjoy the proper soundtrack to God's dynamic creation.  Here is the Concerto No.4 in F minor, Op.8, RV 297, which most folks are probably familiar with, due to its frequent use in car and jewelry commercials.  Not the recording I now own, but when it comes to Vivaldi, how can you complain?

Everything you need to know about Christmas

But most today get wrong.  Certainly if you get your information from the MS or any one of a thousand textbooks read in our schools, you might miss this.  Jimmy Akin breaks it down.  Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Where are my commas?

Or other punctuation marks? Will be busy today shoveling out of the snows that gave us a white post-Christmas:

Blogging is always a hit and miss during this time anyway.  But I will ask this - where are my punctuations?   It's tough enough writing when you aren't a trained writer.  But I know I place certain punctuation marks in my posts, only to see them vanished upon publication.  What's happening?  Anyone?  Thanks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Connecticut Police Officers show the meaning of Christmas

And teach us post-Boomer cynics not to be too quick to judge everything else.  Just a few days back, some Catholics used the story of a woman tased in a shopping mall as proof that our police force is made up of jack-booted thugs who are willing servants of the growing American Police State.  Some pointed out the story was vague, and gave only one real side to what happened.  Not so, several good Catholic commenters said; we know their kind, and as enlightened Catholics, it's good to suspect any of those blue-suited types, and assume the worst.

Well, it's egg on face time, as we see just what these thugs are capable of.  It was enough that the mall story was posted only a day or so before the terror of Newtown, when we saw the pits of hell open on a small Connecticut town.  It enough to know what those first responders were going through as they shared the pain and screams of the loved ones confronted with life's most horrible tragedy.  Now, we see those boys and girls in blue doing a wonderful thing, and banding together from around the state and working on Christmas day to let those officers who experienced the trauma of Newtown have a day off with their loved ones.  Simply beautiful.

Does this mean I don't think America is on the wrong track?  Does it mean I'm unaware of the fact that the official arms of our government could be turned against us if we're dumb enough to let it happen?  Does it mean I don't think we're dumb enough to let it happen?  All it means is, I realize the dangers, but I also believe that losing perspective could be one of the biggest factors in our country emerging as a police state.  So read and enjoy, and prepare to wipe away a tear or two.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christ is born!

Alleluia!  Embrace the babe in the manger.  All other priorities come next.  Merry Christmas to you and your families! Peace to those of good will.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2.11

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from my family to yours

With a final throw-out tribute to the man whose rendition of O Holy Night kept one eardrum in the sacred during my agnostic years, I wish you and yours all the peace and joy this season can bring.  Pax

Christmastime is almost here

I've long said that the image of the Wise Men traversing the nighttime deserts is one that fills me with that Christmas longing.  In fact, as C.S. Lewis talks about, it's often those fleeting jabs of pure joy, of real longing, that hit when I think about a desert in the cool night, wise men on camels, and a radiant star gleaming in the sky.  This year, the myriad issues with which we've had to contend, the uncertainty facing us, several family crises, and of course, the pall cast over all things by the recent atrocities, not the least of which was the Newtown shooting, have made the spirit seem a little less bright.

But that's because I want something that is tradition, that is family, comfort, cozy, special.  Perhaps there's something in those fleeting jabs of joy when I reflect on the Wise Men that reminds me, however briefly, that when we search for God, we're not searching for a way to add to our middle class 21st century comfortable lifestyle.  We're looking for something that will be wholly other.  As I tell my boys, don't covet wealth too freely.  Us lesser folk often imagine having the wealth of Bill Gates as being something like having the wealth of Bill Gates, and able to go on about our lives as we normally do - just with the wealth of Bill Gates.  But it doesn't work that way.  To have the wealth of Bill Gates, you have to become Bill Gates.  You have to have the priorities, the lifestyle, the dedication to wealth and industry that makes it impossible to be what leads to that much wealth and influence.  Have that much wealth, and you'll cease forever being what you are now, including the things you currently enjoy.

It's like that with Christmas, I suppose.  The Newtown shooting shattered those families' lives forever.  They also overthrew the calm of the rest of us who have hearts.  And yet, as reflections on the Coventry Carol demonstrate, the original 'Christmas Season' was anything but a single day event ending a month long spending spree.  It wasn't even cozy fires with chestnuts and family get togethers.   It was God invading the created universe to do something that had never been done, and would never be repeated.  And those involved would be changed forever.  All of us would be changed, potentially for the good, as the chorus of angels proclaim: a savior for all people, or the pain of living: a sword would pierce Mary's heart, and Rachel would weep for her children and refuse to be comforted, because they are no more.

So yes, this year has been far less than the story book, Christmas card Christmases of years past.  It doesn't equal the joy in our first Christmas with our oldest, or our last Christmas with all our boys, or any Christmas growing up where I wanted Atari's Space Invaders more than oxygen!  But it has given me time to think and reflect.  I often say I want God to show me direction.  What is it really I'm asking?  Am I prepared to follow that star, or drink that cup as Jesus would say?  Or am I just wanting an extra piece of divine furniture to round out the Christmas portrait that will be placed alongside the rest of the celebrations throughout the years?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is on the 25th of December this year

I just thought I'd throw that out there, since we've been watching stores minimize their Christmas inventory for several days.  Tonight, we went for some last minute shopping courtesy of some generous donations from our Church family, and lo and behold! the grocery store was emptying the shelves and getting ready for Valentine's Day!  Pretty soon the Christmas shopping season will start in July and end mid-November.  At some point, I'd love American Christians to pledge an entire year of buying only what is needed.  I'm sure most Americans who can afford luxuries already have enough to sustain them for a year. No Christmas shopping.  Pick a birthday for gift giving if gift giving must happen. Send a warning shot at Wall Street and Madison Avenue that we're tired of them not just exploiting a holy day for Christians, but darn well mocking it when all is said and done.

I hope they didn't wait until the week before Christmas to follow that star

Thomas McDonald unpacks the Coventry Carol

And makes quite a few good points in the process.  The emphasis is, of course, on the sudden appropriateness of this oft forgotten carol.   But like any good piece, he gets in a couple other points, some that could be more pertinent to the subject than one might think at first glance.   He mentions the old mystery plays that were popular throughout England, but were banned during that period of Protestant domination.  He then adds a little link, sarcastically pointing out that such brutal oppression of religion expression would never, ever happened in enlightened countries such as ours.  To me, that's pertinent because I am all about getting to the bottom of things, including why we have this growing trend of young, middle class white men opening fire in defenseless public places.  Just on CNN last night, they mused on the possibly of invoking racial profiling.  Perhaps we should.  But only if we can get to why they are the ones doing such things.  For me, one reason could be the ease with which the white male has been blamed for all things horrible.  What impact could that have on otherwise unstable young men?  Another, which Mr. McDonald points out, and which I kicked around the other day,  could be this growing trend of invoking censorship because everything offends me.  Who knows? A combination of these and other factors?  But all worth looking at, at least IMHO. If we really want to get to the bottom of things.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Things like this make me wish we had intergalactic space travel

But then I'm usually skittish about going to a new town.  What in the world makes me believe I'd be comfortable going to a new planet?

Fr. Barron addresses Newtown and The Hobbit

And the two clips fit together.  Gave me quite a bit to think about as I reflect on what it is God wants from me at this stage in my life.  Also food for thought as we get ready for the great policy wars that will no doubt erupt over the next weeks and months in light of that sickening tragedy last Friday.  It's enough to remind me that Jesus nowhere said 'blessed are the policymakers', rather he said 'blessed are the peacemakers.'

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

At least in terms of weather.  October was pretty chilly, but then things got mild in November.  Wet and rainy throughout.  Then came December, with warm temps and dry conditions for the most part.  Well that went out the window.  We just got hit with the snow storm that swept through the Midwest.  Weren't hit as hard as some,  but harder than I think they were predicting.  Anyway, blogging will become lighter and lighter as the days progress.  I will handle fewer deep and serious topics, and focus more on God's direction, the boys, my beautiful wife, and the family. We've been very fortunate, and have been the beneficiaries of some crazy levels of generosity from our families and Catholic brethren and sistren (more on that later).  Enough, at least, to make it a festive Christmas as we anxiously await the coming storm.  Prayers are still requested for gainful employment and that boat I talked about, or the background of these pictures will be a thing of the past.

But for now, when reflecting on that moment of silence for the shooting victims last week, and those precious angels who were taken from us far too soon, and those who died protecting them  - I must admit just having the boys with my wife and me and the family, no matter what, is cause for praise.  So here we are, playing in a winter wonderland, and waiting for the big day that's only just around the corner.  A little indulging in my blessings I know, but it's my blog!

Yes, he's that cute
Talk about seizing every day, he does nothing that's not full throttle
You guessed it, he's talking about Yorick with a snowman's head
I'm not sure, but I think he's having fun
World's cutest - and possibly most tolerant - wife
The boys, the snow, 'nuff said
And after this, I explained to the little one why throwing heavy snowballs at our van was not a good idea
I just liked the picture, what a charismatic young fellow
At some point later in the afternoon, the fireplace and hot chocolate began to beckon
It was time for me to get into the act
And the boys decided the time had come for our annual snowman
Really, it wasn't as urgent as this picture suggests (and yes, I seldom wear anything but loafers)
Ta-da!  Snowman success, complete with strange charcoal outgrowths our youngest insisted were cheeks 

Me and the boys, what else could I possibly complain about

That's weird

Photos of complete strangers who are almost identical.  Really, check it out here.  I noticed that the names were all regional, and several shots were taken in Montreal, so it must be a fairly small area the artist is working.  My big question was how did they find these folks to begin with?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Speaking of a culture of violence

I can't help but think about our over-the-top rhetoric that is used to censor traditional speech and religious expression, such as this article of mind-numbing lunacy demonstrates.  Christmas songs as forms of intimidation and bullying?  Really?  It's been said that if everything is something, then that becomes nothing.  So if everyone is a Super, then nobody is a Super (remember that from The Incredibles? ).  Or if everything is racism, then racism ceases to mean anything.  But could it be that we have built a country where everyone thinks everything is evil, where everything is attacks and assaults and bullying?  Could this be affecting folks, young folks, who grow up hearing adults speak as though anything and everything that crosses them is the most vile evil and horrible inhumanity?  Instead of it all becoming nothing, perhaps it's becoming how young people see the world?  I don't know.  Maybe there's nothing to it.  But as I sit back and watch our country splintered into endless divisions of the good and the evil, I just can't help but imagine that would have to impact me if I grew up in it.  Just a thought.

World economies cow style

Thomas McDonald has an informative list explaining how different economic structures work.  It's from F. Paul Wilson's Facebook.  My favorite:

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.

A former Evangelical pastor can sympathize. 

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime

Even with things being tight, we've managed to pluck out a decent Advent season.  No major light displays this year, and just recently put up the tree.  That actually helped us remember that Advent is what the Church does, 22 shopping days till Christmas is what Madison Avenue does.  Nonetheless, we've had our times, watched our specials, and have decorated some.  Part of the sparseness is owing to our youngest being at that stage of 'grab first and bemoan the broken heirloom second.' 

One of the highlights, as always, was the annual Christmas Holiday Concerts.  The nice thing about our town is it's generally to the right of center, and for the most part, willing to have the odd Christmas carol or even Christian carol as part of the music.  As a special note, the middle school director, who happens to be Jewish, picks the most Christian selections of the bunch.  We received a new camera from the family for our collective birthdays, plus we've been given some wonderfully anonymous gifts for Christmas from our Catholic friends and family. That's been a big help. Still, new cameras take some getting used to, and these aren't the best shots I've ever pulled off.  Plus, because of the resolution, memory cards don't hold that much!  But below are the three oldest doing their thing, bringing out some of that whimsical holiday spirit, and getting us in the mood for Christmas time, even while our hearts and prayers are with those who will hurt so badly for a host of reasons.

Our 7th Grader, banging those bongos like a chimpanzee

Our 8th Grader, trombone in hand, ready to carry the Nutracker Suite
(and no, the fellow in the Santa hat isn't on the basketball team)

Mr. high school Junior getting ready to take his seat with the orchestra

No, he isn't in a band yet, just bragging on his wonderful specialness
Positive note: the High School concert, which happened after the Newtown shooting, took up an impromptu offering for the school, and raised hundreds of dollars!  The spirit of Christmas.  How awesome. 

Rachel Maddow reminds me

Of the level of contempt and hatred emanating from the American Left.  Robert Bork died yesterday.  That's right, died.  In her piece on MSNBC, Maddow chose to remind everyone that a country without Bork as Supreme Court Justice is a blessed country indeed, that he was truly deserving of Kennedy's prediction of  lynching blacks and murdering women, and that the admiration from heinous conservatives should  be more than enough proof of just how twisted and vile this man was.  On the day he died.  Of course, her take on his legacy was that it was a good thing Reagan was soundly defeated in this Supreme Court nomination.  My take, and many who don't conform to Leftist dogmas, was that his nomination was when the Left emerged to declare their motto of 'be liberal or be evil'.  At that point, they proudly declared that it was their hour, and the qualifiers for public office, nominations to key positions, or in recent years, the ability to exercise fundamental rights, would  be sifted through the filter of Liberal Dogma.  I'm not saying I was a fan of Bork one way or another, or suggesting he should have been a justice or not.  I'm saying that no matter what I think of someone, if for no other reason than respect for the family who may have had no say in the matter, I'll keep my yap shut.  Maddow displays the more proper post-modern Leftist value system: contempt, hatred and intolerance of all who fail to the Left's dogmatic definitions of diversity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The New York Jets would rather lose a season than start Tebow

Ever since his ill-fated decision to stand against the Liberal Status Quo, Tebow has been a mystery   A Heisman winning quarterback whose style was questioned for its compatibility for pro football, Tebow became the proverbial hot-potato when he starred in a Super Bowl commercial renouncing abortion.  The NFL, happy to allow more progressive politicizing on behalf of its industry, is less tolerant when it comes to standing against the liberal grain.  After all, like most big business, it thrives in a culture of ME, and that's what liberalism,  whether intentionally or not, promotes.

So Tebow was begrudgingly brought in by the Denver Broncos last season, confined to the third string, and largely dismissed by critics who determined that he wasn't just not fit for pro football, but he was one of the worst to ever play the game.  Then, of course, history was changed as, due to floundering early in the season, Tebow was - with great trepidation - put in the game.  And then he won.  And won. And won again.  Critics insisted that they were sloppy wins.  Bad wins. Lousy wins.  But they were wins.  Then they went against Big Ben and the Steelers in the first week of playoffs, and the game has become the stuff of legend.

Sure, the following week, when Tom Brady and the Patriots dined on Bronco for lunch, everyone saw the limits of Tebow and a team that had never been adjusted to him.  But still, for his first time out, it was a season of magic and awe.  So naturally, the Broncos brought in Peyton Manning, prompting Tebow to go to the Jets.  The animosity toward Tebow is as much the stuff of legend as any last minute win.  Not since Muhammad Ali angered American with his flagrant condemnations of America and the war in Vietnam has an athlete galvanized so many in their hatred of an individual.  Which probably goes to show how the status quo meter has changed.  Same intolerance.  Different reasons.

But the hatred toward Tebow apparently extended to the field this year, his coach, and the team itself.  So much so that, despite one clown performance after another, despite loss after loss, despite Sanchez approaching every bad stat that a quarterback can have, there was no way in God's green earth they were going to give Tebow a chance.  When an attitude or value system becomes entrenched,  self destruction is vastly preferred to giving in, and that's just what the Jets chose to do.  In the last three possessions of last night's fair-well performance, when they needed but four points to tie the game and go into overtime, they suffered two interceptions, and a fumble.

Naturally the sports press, who is not less hateful toward Tebow, have found ways of saying he was the mischief.  His very presence I guess.  But one thing is clear: the franchise was prepared to suffer an embarrassingly bad losing season, rather than take a chance on another year where Tebow-mania vindicated a much maligned athlete   We'll see what happens next year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Church of hate manages to lower themselves

Their hate is the hate we witnessed Friday, manifested differently and with less reasoning.  The shooter did grave and unspeakable evil because of whatever twisted and demented darkness was in his heart and mind.  These lower-than-maggots are doing this for the press and the attention.  It's all I will say about them.  I will repeat never again anything they do, or mention them by name on this blog.  No link.  No story.  Everyone knows who and what I'm talking about. May God, whom they apparently know nothing about, have mercy on their miserable, twisted, pathetic,  low, and hate-filled souls.  And may the world and the Lord cover and protect those grieving families from this group of proud, if unintentional, incarnations of the demonic.

Prayers still with Newtown

Here is an emerging list of the victims along with pictures.  I can't read through it right now.  The pain is too strong.  I'm also resisting the urge to make it all about this or that issue I already support or believe   Nor am I going to rush out and say how rotten all those other people are for reacting this way or that.  Maybe if we just paused and reflected on the pain, the horror that those poor children experienced before they left this world to be before the face of God - for what hope is there if they are not in God's presence now? - and imagine, if we can, the unfathomable anguish and deathly pain that the families of those lost experienced, then  that might keep our yaps shut.

I might also add a prayer for those who lose loved ones on any given day, some to similarly horrific events, but we'll never know.  Their pain will be no less, and they won't have the world to share it with them.  So to them, to those who have suffered the  most unimaginable loss, to those grieving in Newtown, to the victims and the precious souls of those babies, may the grace and peace of God cover their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and welcome into the perpetual light those who leave the world a sadder place for their absence.   In Christ's name, Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fun and forgetting at The Nutcracker

Almost a year ago, before my wife's income was severed by a computer program in New York City, we purchased tickets to Columbus BalletMet's annual production of The Nutcracker.  The first time I ever attended a performance of Tchaikovsky's famous ballet was our first year of marriage.  A couple friends at seminary were helping us move into new student housing.  After a particularly taxing load, one of them mentioned they had tickets to the Cincinnati Ballet's production.  He asked if we'd like to go, and I said sure, why not.  They couldn't go, why waste the tickets.

It was a snowy night, and we drove to Cincinnati on the same evening, with plans to make the drive back to Louisville, probably owing to obligations at school.  It was one of those magical times where everything worked.  We got there early (as I am wont to do when going somewhere I've never  been), and had plenty of time to walk around the area.  We found a jazz restaurant that served Cajun, and had a ball.  Then we indulged in the atmosphere of the performance and the theater - complete with a choir singing Christmas carols, the decor, the performance.  It was magic.

Since then, we've tried to go as often as possible.  Sometimes it's been a great experience.  Sometimes not so great.  We've gone to different productions in different cities.  In 2000, we began going to BalletMet.  The first performance was less than inspiring, but we came back a couple years later, when the boys were old enough.  Things got better, and over the years we've probably gone four or five times as a family.  Two years ago we took in a matinee, and the audience was about as lackluster as you can imagine, which impacted the performers accordingly.  But earlier this year, we had the change to buy tickets as ridiculously low prices, so we jumped on it.  It turned out to be a good decision, as it's the one thing we could do that actually cost money this year.  We couldn't take our youngest, he's still too young.  But next year, we'll take the whole gang.

It wasn't easy.  The shooting Friday still casts a pall on everything, and it was at times tough not to imagine what those families had planned with their loved ones and their children for the weekend.  Still, life must go on, and we owed it to our boys to help them through the tough year we've had.  It doesn't compare to anything those families in Connecticut are going through of course, but not all tough times need to be on the same level to be tough nonetheless.  So we went, and enjoyed.  We even got to eat out.  So altogether, a welcome break from the sorrows of the last couple days, as we remember those who lost loved ones, as well as others who have lost loved ones who the world will never hear about.  Peace to them all.

Anxiously waiting for the curtain to rise; it was worth it - one of the best productions we've seen
The great chandelier; the interior adds volumes to the experience
Heading in, I don't know what was going on with our eighth grader, but our oldest  looks good
See camera, strike pose
In a small balcony ledge before heading into the auditorium
We still missed him, who is here looking pretty excited about decorating the tree tomorrow
A rare shot of Mom and Dad, courtesy of our oldest across the foyer

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear God be with the victims and their families at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Horrifying.  Simply horrifying.  I can do nothing other than hear my heart break for those precious children and their families at this time.  Lord Jesus, cover them with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You have to admit, it is clever

Just for the fun of it

Sometimes things are crazy, and right now some weird flu like but not quite flu virus has ravaged our household.  Yeah, I know.  We were bored and nothing else big was happening, so we shouldn't complain about a minor setback.  Anyway, despite it all, there's plenty of good things to be had, not the least of which is watching the two youngest roughhousing and having a ball.  There were plenty of great images from a wonderful birthday gift to my wife and I courtesy of the family, but this was hands down the best. Don't know what's going on in their minds, but it sure looks fun (at least I hope fun).

Note to miss the last super-date for a while

It's 12: 12 12-12-12

Monday, December 10, 2012

What I'm reading: 1066

For no particular reason, thought I'd throw this out.  I'm actually reading many things, as I typically have a dozen books I read at the same time.  Among these are my annual jaunt through one of the books of The Lord of the Rings (this time, following a run through The Hobbit, now reading it again aloud with the family), as well as a new translation of The Canterbury Tales,  Moby Dick, James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, and Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.  I've been brushing up on my Hegel recently, as well as reading up on some 17th century history to help my oldest in AP European History. This in addition to starting to read through the Catechism and study up on Vatican II, since I've been given the possible chance to do a lecture series on that next September. Plus it's my 12 year old's turn to read with me through To Kill a Mockingbird.

I focus on David Howarth's 1066: The Year of Conquest, however, because I'm going through a hardcover version, since I lost the original version some time ago.  So I thought I'd run through it.  What strikes me about this book is its accessibility.  You don't have to be a scholar of the 11th century to get what he's saying.  He walks the reader through the year 1066, focusing on how the various parties involved in the fateful battle at Hastings came together.  He writes well,  is engaging, and lays out the basic facts that are known to most who study that period.

What is fascinating about Howarth, however, is the flagrant bias he brings to the table.  He's an Englishman, and a proud son of the Saxon race.  You don't have to read long to see his sympathies are with the English people that October morning.  The irony here is how he frequently points out the recurring meme of modern history that we can't trust much of the source material because it was written by the winners.  In this case, it's those rascally Norman chroniclers whose versions are suspect.  It's ironic  because Howarth himself brings such a loaded bias to the table when he recounts the bold and wonderful and perfectly hip modern flavored Harold against the 11th century manifestation of the Galactic Emperor himself: William the Bastard (a.k.a. William the Conqueror).

To his credit, he admits as much.  He lets us know, like any child of his generation  he has basic contempt for Edward the Confessor and his religious ways, seems to have admiration mixed with pity for King Harold, and is scared out of his pants of William.  That this is seen in every paragraph in every chapter makes this a welcome admission.  But all too often, modern history approaches events and individuals with equally slanted takes and biased interpretations.  All too often,  however, they refuse to admit what is so flagrantly obvious.  Which is why it is easy to imagine that chroniclers of the past may have been biased  too.  Almost as biased as the historians and scholars of the modern era.

Looks like the economy is sluggish

At least it's sluggish enough to keep the homeless problem from improving. Just thought I'd throw that out there, since up to about a month ago, all we heard was how much better things were and how bright the future looked.  Just saying.

Sounds like FX's "The Asylum" is about as fair and balanced as Triumph of the Will

When it comes to its portrayal of the Catholic Church. Really?  There's a shock.  It's like being surprised that you might find racist publications in the South c. 1920.  Personally, I can't speak to whether this means cable companies should change policies or billing or whatever.  We can't afford most cable channels anyway.  I just find it odd how bigotry laced programming is now prevalent at the hand of the very movement that once decried the horror of such bigotry laced propaganda in the form of Father Knows Best or Ozzie and Harriet.

For that tough to buy for person on your Christmas list

Vatican Radio is releasing a CD of Christmas music performed by the Swiss Guard entitled "Christmas with the Pontifical Swiss Guard."  I love it when the Church can outdo the best SNL routines.  And yet, when you peal back the layers and read the story, I can't help but admit it actually looks quite interesting.

Where have all the good times gone?

It looks like a couple college students are facing potential criminal prosecution for lacing a batch of brownies with cannabis (that's pot to you and me).  I remember, back in the day of the 1970s and 1980s Utopian vision of a liberal society, such pranks were the domain of really cool kids who knew how worthless the whole button-down hypocrisy really was.  This is the stuff that Boon and Otter could pull off that would have audiences rolling in the aisles, and inspiring a boat load of imitators   Truth be told, I heard dozens of such stories when I was in high school and college of kids drugging other kids for fun. Perhaps they were exaggerations.   Kids will do that sometimes.  Maybe  they didn't even happen.  But it certainly was the stuff we thought that being in a post-hypocrisy nation was all about.  Just like slipping the microphone under Frank and Hot Lips' cot.  Funny how all those things that kids were told would be just sooooooooo cool will now get you arrested and charged to the fullest extent of the law, by the very forces that once promised us such a rousing and laugh-filled future.

Atheists cry a river

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has completed a study suggesting atheists and non-believers suffer greatly in this present darkness. I have no doubt they are persecuted.  Just like many of the countries mentioned that will persecute atheists will persecute religious believers of other traditions.  Oh yeah.  The study doesn't seem to mention that.   Likewise absent is the country with the largest population of atheists in the world: China.  Some atheists, who are often quick to absorb any manner of non-traditional belief system into the fold of 'atheism', suddenly point out that many Chinese are actually agnostic, and that only the government officially endorses atheism.  Whatever difference it makes to those persecuted because of their religious beliefs, I don't know. All in all, the typical word drool of modern atheism, where nothing is real, and no facts are worth getting hung about.  For a perspective of sweat and innocent atheists who only want to give peace a chance, Mark Shea has an amusing - and quite accurate - rebuttal.

I enjoy reading Tomas McDonald's God and the Machine

Because he has interesting and well thought out takes on a variety of subjects.  For instance, he had a wonderfully insightful, yet approachable, series on Bread and Wine in the Scriptures.  It starts here, with an overview of Bread and Wine throughout the Scriptures.  Then he looks at Bread in the Old Testament, then what the Gospel of John has to say about Bread.  Next he dives in and examines the use of Wine in the Old Testament, and again in John's Gospel. Very informative and worth the read.  So you have my permission to leave my wonderful contributions to world literature and actually learn something at God and the Machine.