Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A story written for Halloween

It looks like Hurricane Sandy uprooted an historic tree in Connecticut.   Under neath the tree's roots was a skeleton, perhaps from as far back as colonial times.  RIP to the person in question, but it does sound like the very story you might expect as All Hallow's kicks into gear. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prayers for those hit by Hurricane Sandy

As we watch the damage, the loss of life, the devastation  our prayers go out to all in harm's way.  That includes those inland who may not receive the brunt of the storm's wrath, but may be hurt in some ways nonetheless.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Movies to scare the kids by

So it's Halloween.  Have I mentioned I love this time of year?  I must admit, with everything pressing down on us, and the prospect of not making it looming before us, it's been tough to get into the 'holiday spirit'.  We've tried.  We tried to keep an upbeat appearance at the sporting events, being thankful when we were available to watch them.  We've tried to do what we've done in the past, eliminating things like the Renaissance Festival where justification for the expenditures simply didn't exist.  But it has been tough.  I fear worst of all, the kids have picked up on the malaise, and detected a certain vacancy in the festivities that once dominated this time of year.

Nonetheless, one thing we still have is electricity - so far at least.  And with electricity comes scary movies!  I know, big leap that.  But anyway, scary movies with the kids are a staple of Halloween.  Influenced by Simcha Fisher's post on scary movies for the kids, I thought I would toss out the ones we've let the kids watch over the years, including the more recent ones we've opened up as they get older.

One note, it's tough balancing things with multiple kids.  Our youngest, of course, is out of the room when it comes to anything scary.  We leave him to the cartoons and half hour specials mentioned in a previous post.

Universal's Dracula: The Dracula against which all Draculas are measured.  Lugosi's signature roll is as old as you get before going silent.  Sound in film was as new as the iPad today, and the lack of musical score just adds to the creepiness.  The sets, particular Carfax Abbey and Castle Dracula, have enough atmosphere to fill Neptune   In addition to Lugosi, you also have Edward Van Sloan defining the way I still think Van Helsing should act, though Peter Cushing's Van Helsing, rushing down the table to slay Dracula with sunlight and a makeshift cross, gives him a run for the money.  Of course Dwight Frye's scene stealing Renfield is almost iconic in its own right.  This usually kicks off the scary movie portion of the holiday, and does so nicely.

Universal's The Wolf Man: Another in the hat tip to atmosphere.  I mean, is it ever not foggy in the world of Larry Talbot?  Contrary to popular belief, many of the legends associated with werewolves are not legends at all, but were inventions by screenwriter Curt Siodmak.  The Pentagram, the silver bullets (or cane as the case may be), even the poem that you are bludgeoned with a hundred times, all came from Siodmak's mind. The idea was simple, Siodmak had fled from Nazi Germany, where he saw good people he had known his whole life transformed into monsters by the frenzy of devotion to Hitler and his gangsters.  Pentagram?  Shall we say, yellow star?

Universal's Frankenstein: Some say the greatest of the Universal monster movies, with the exception of the Bride of Frankenstein (which many consider superior to the original  and one of the best sequels ever), Frankenstein throws most of the book out the window to focus on the basic question: what happens when men play God?  Well, they invent a career for Boris Karloff, that's what.  Once again, the atmosphere, the ancient tower, the culturally androgynous village with European flavoring, and the performances make this a classic.  Frye is there, once again, hogging the scenes along with Van Sloan.  But it's Karloff's sympathetic portrayal of a monster with a flat head and neck bolts that makes the biggest impression.

Universal's The Invisible Man: Don't know why, but this has become a part of the monster repertoire in my house.  The last couple years, they've watched this around late August, as if to start the pistons popping for more.  The primary charm of this tale is in Claude Rains' performance as the sadistic, and eventually evil, scientist who gets more than he bargained for.  Rains is a favorite among my boys, from Robin Hood to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington all the way up to the 'delightfully dapper' Louis Renault in Casablanca.

The Mummy: Whether the 1932 original, or the 1999 remake, you can't have enough mummies.  Nothing based on classic literature here, the whole mummy craze was inspired by the famous, and sometimes strange, occurrences surrounding the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb.  The original is a bit slow, I'll admit.  The 1959 Hammer Film, which my oldest got for his birthday this year, moved along nicely, though it's still not as spectacular  funny, or overall clever, as the 1999 version.

Salem's Lot (original TV series, not the Rob Lowe remake): Close the drapes after this one.  Floating kids scraping on the windows sent a generation of television viewers to pull those curtains closed.  My boys did the same thing when they saw this the first time.  Serious 'made in the 1970s' production values, and only skimming the surface of King's original story.  Lowe's remake is in some ways more faithful, but can't help with the typical modern injection of Political Correctness by bringing up issues of homosexuality, and basically sexing up and already sexed up (for its time) story.  But the original, friendly enough to play on TV when the Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo was given a time slot, is pretty safe.

Poltergeist: After this, my boys were reluctant to let the TV stay on for very long.  We watched it a few years ago, when our youngest was only about eight, and truth be told it was a bit much.  Then again, the kitchen scene with the food and the mirror is a bit much today.  Craig T. Nelson is at his best as the bewildered Dad of a typical early 80s suburban family living the dream, until the power of the netherworld explodes into his living room.  Fun stuff, and just creepy enough to make an impression on a family of suburban dwellers.

Children of the Corn (1984 version): We let them watch this a year or so ago.  We then promptly went out and found a corn maze.  While trying to find our way about the maze, a flock of crows suddenly burst out of a nearby patch of trees.  That did it.  I never saw three kids run through a corn maze so quickly.  This is as much nostalgia for me as anything.  My autumn quarter of my freshman year of college saw a TV on a stand with a VCR player in the commons, playing various movies at various times.  During October, horror movies were the rage, and that is when I saw this.  No Oscars here, it's enough to see Courtney Gains running amuck, getting his comeuppance at the end.

The Ring: This year was the first for the boys.  Maybe I'm just a sissy, but this scared the beans out of me.  My wife and I caught it about two years ago on some cable channel.  We started about a third into it, and I must admit, I hid my eyes a couple times.  Why, I can't tell you.  The whole thing, with its gloomy cinematography,  the endless broodiness, the sense of urgency, and that feeling that something is just never right, did a great job keeping us off kilter.  The ending still ranks as one of the most disturbingly creepy endings I've seen.  My boys spent a well earned night out in the living room - or in bed with us.

Silent Films (Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Nosferatu):  For years, during Tricks or Treats, we play various silent movies.  This allowed for conversation with the family who stayed behind while everyone else went their rounds.  Of course now, the family isn't really around.  I think my oldest boy may stick around and help hand out candy.  My Dad is no longer with us, and my sister has her family to walk around with, such as it is.  Mom may stay now, as she's getting to the point where going out isn't easy.  My younger three will go after the candy (my oldest may go around the block for our youngest  and for old times' sake).  But we'll probably keep these going until they're home, then watch A Great Pumpkin, or some special.

Assorted Bits and Pieces (Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, etc.): I make it a point not to show my boys things that stand grossly against the basic assumptions of Christian living.  I admit they are there.  I admit I like them when I do.  But I'm not going to be sitting there when they see a movie with some flagrant sex scene, or over the top gruesome blood and gore.  Nonetheless, some of these films that I won't be showing the  boys (even if they eventually watch them someday, somewhere) are good, and have great parts.  Now, with the miracle of DVDs, I can quickly show them some of the better parts from the better movies without seeing the whole thing, if nothing else, to scare them a little more.

Those are the ones.  There will be others, of course.  Our oldest has already seen Alien, and our 8th grader is beginning to work up the nerve.  A year ago, our oldest also watched JAWS.  Neither of these are necessarily 'Halloween' proper, but he was taken by how intense they were, saying he was almost shaking when JAWS was finished.  I told him that's what happens when you rely less on CGI, and more on things like character development, plot, and good old story telling.

A Note to Catholics

Trying to tie the horrors of Western Civilization to those rascally Protestants flies about as far as a 500 pound iron weight.  As many times as I've read Catholics trying to insist the days of Catholic exploration were verily filled with joy and harmony and the chanting of John Lennon songs, truth is the entire period was complex, with all sides having their hands in the cookie jars of indefensible atrocities.  And yes, that includes the American Indians.  In our modern culture, emphasizing the complete openness and tolerance of all immigrants who yearn for a better life, I find it hard to believe we still have some who dismiss the endless numbers of innocent men, women, and children from Europe who died horribly at the hands of native Indians who knew full well what they were doing.

Fact is, all sides have their skeletons to hang in the closet.  Catholics who attempt to rewrite the narrative to suggest that it was only when Protestants, with their heretical ways and bad breath, came on the scene that things fell apart, are spitting into the wind.  Why?  Because it isn't just Protestants and scholars who have a  modicum of honesty about their research who know it's B.S.  It's also many within the vary Native American tribes that are equally skeptical, because they see one white European as the same as another, and don't dismiss the atrocities laid at the foot of the Catholic Church any more than they dismiss those committed by any others from Europe.  FWIW, they also remember atrocities committed by other Indian tribes, but you'd be hard pressed to find a PC Multi-Culturally sensitive Euro-American who could ever admit to such nuanced details from that period in history.

The stuff that makes you proud to be an American

Despite the mass scramble from the East Coast, the guards who stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be staying at their posts.  How absolutely awesome.  Prayers and thanks to those fabulous men and women who will brave the storm for things that are worth beyond material measure.

A worthwhile image in a cynical and hyper-critical age

How to tell you've become a Catholic Fundamentalist

When you spend your time trashing Catholics who jettison the clear teachings of the Catechism for what they consider to be grave reasons, only to jettison the clear teachings of the Catechism for what you consider grave reasons.  Case in point.  Note well, Rush Limbaugh's insult against Sandra Fluke is called a "repellent screed."  Now, second case in point.  Having lambasted Limbaugh's 'repellent screed', we now see our intrepid host let fly with a similarly repellent screed against President Obama and Mitt Romney.

And when I step in and quote the Catechism's teachings on how we should deal with our fellow man?  I'm called a bourgeois passive aggressive jack-ass who apparently doesn't care about children killed by drones since I mentioned, you know, the Catechism's teachings on how we should deal with our fellow man.  Yeah.  Read the comments in the second link.  When you lambaste someone for pointing out that you might be doing what you lambasted someone else for doing, to quote Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a fundamentalist.

Oh, best point came from commenter Pancho. Watching me get tag-teamed on the thread, he pointed out that for folks all worried about the eternal damnation that could await us based on a single, simple vote, they don't seem at all worried about how the words we use affects us. Special kudos for picking up on the reference from James 3.  Again, if you spend your time pointing out to other people the dangers of departing from a particular take on the Catechism and the Bishop's teaching about voting, while dismissing the possibility that you could be doing the same by departing from many takes on a teaching pointed out in Scripture, you might be a fundamentalist.

FWIW, I don't say this because I hate Mark or any of the commenters on that thread.  On the contrary, I am very fond of them and owe them much.  That's why I say it.

Happy Birthday Bob Ross

An apt tribute from Google

The man who could calm the Middle East with his quiet demeanor would have been 70 today.  I know, some in the snob court of the art world look down their noses, but who cares?  When did anyone who lauds a toilet seat suspended from a wall of corn cobs ever speak for what really moves the average person?  Ross knew that art should be for everyone, not just the elite.  He also knew that everyone likes to create, it's in our blood.  God creates.  God is the source of creation.  Being made in God's image, we just can't help but want to make something.  And so Mr. Ross took the easel from the Champagne and caviar world of self-congratulatory snobbery, and gave it to us, the little people. And the way he did it couldn't help but put a smile on your face.

FWIW, his tones may have been tranquil, but watch him while he is painting; watch his hands.  Those hands are going a million miles and hour.  It's a sadder world without Mr. Ross in it.  I hope he knows somewhere that he is missed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sherlock Holmes a la mode

It's stupid.  But my boys wanted me to.  While pressing our cognitive abilities with a round of 221 B Baker Street (the game), I sketched this silly thing between turns.  OK, with no further apologies, here is the sleuth with toppings:

By the way, I won.  :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

What should Richard Mourdock have said about rape?

Jimmy Akin suggests he should have said a whole lot less than he did.  The sad thing is, Mr. Akin has a point.  But not just in the political arena.  In our iPod/app generation, people are not even going to bother to think what is said.  They will hit search, look for keywords, and pounce based on what they already know to be true.  Want to know why I get impatient when Catholics do this sort of thing?  Because it's the common problem of modern discourse in general, and it would be nice for Catholics to be the example, not simply run with the herds. 

But I digress.  Mr. Akin lays out a pretty solid explanation for what went wrong, what could be said, and better ways to say it.  He also mentions Todd Akin, though Akin's statements were far worse, and the ignorance gave more than enough justifiable ammo to pro-choice advocates. 

Still, the saddest part?  For all our back patting, we really are not in some enlightened time.  Perhaps we were  but we aren't now.  Time and again we see people suggest that really complex and really deep and really profound topics ought not be discussed in this or that arena of public discourse because people just don't bother taking the time to understand.  People just rush, judge, condemn or support, and then back to the latest iPhone.  Forgive me for feeling embarrassed  but I can't help but feel embarrassed   At least people in ancient times had certain excuses.

For all your super pumpkin carving needs

I give you this link.  I wish I had talent like that.  As it is, my talent meter has always bounced near empty when it comes to the arts and crafts world.  My wife seems to have that part of the marriage.  Still working on what I contribute.  Anyway, enjoy the link for some helpful hints.  Anyone who can take a pumpkin and bring Van Gogh to life is someone who has my vote for coolest person of the week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clergy Convert to Catholicism needs help badly

So in our ongoing showers of blessings, we have once again received a full broadside haymaker out of the dark.  We were informed that our minivan, our dear old family truckster of over ten years, will need a transmission replacement.  We knew it was probably that.  My Dad was enough of a mechanic in his day to pass down a little knowledge to my otherwise mechanically incompetent ears, and  I could tell by the rattling and the shaking and the increasing feelings of stalling at higher speeds that the transmission could be the culprit   Well, it is.  It's been verified, and it will cost a whopping 5200.00.  That's right.  It might as well be 5 billion.  We're taking on water and already sinking fast.  If things don't turn around for us, by the first of the year we will begin defaulting on our loans and unable to pay our mortgage.  Temp jobs have run out, and we still have the issue of medical healthcare coverage to consider.  So if anyone knows somebody, a major Catholic donor perhaps, who happens to have 5000.00 burning a hole in his pocket, or someone with a decent minivan they've been dying to give away, please feel free to email us.  It has to be a minivan by the way, because one of the best gifts of becoming Catholic - our fourth child - also makes it impossible to travel as a family in anything less.

All of this, of course, begs an answer to the question: quo vadis Griffey family?  Already, people are scratching their heads wondering what's keeping us in the Church.  I keep telling them the Truth, that's what. But a growing chorus of family and former colleagues and acquaintances who were skeptical about the whole conversion thing are starting to smack their lips and suggest this proves that our journey across the Tiber was hell and gone from God's will.  Why the Church - not wonderful, gracious,  generous and loving individual Catholics - but the Church, as manifest in the diocese of Columbus, simply has no means, or is not concerned with finding any means, of putting either my wife or I to some form of work, or even short term anything to help weather the storm, is something those who are used to the 'don't just stand there, do something' mantra of Evangelical Protestantism are left to puzzle until their puzzlers are sore.  So if nothing else  for the witness, pray that the Church itself somehow steps up to the plate, while in the short term  prayers and anyone who can help keep an old minivan alive, would be greatly appreciated.

Again, please feel free to email me at the email on the side of the page for any information you may have.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

If you're watching Fox News

You're probably seeing a growing pile of evidence that suggests Obama and his administration flat out lied about the attacks in Libya, and perhaps even did so for simply political expedience.  If you're watching the rest of the MSM, you'll no doubt have been shown endless hours of outrage that a Christian would suggest a baby conceived is an act of God, even if that conception came from rape (under the classic belief that God can make something beautiful even out of the most heinous circumstances).  Depends on which one you're watching as to which story is important.  Of course, it also might suggest you are watching those particular networks because those priorities are already yours.

Richard Mourdock furnishes media with October Surprise

Richard Mourdock has used predictable language to explain that he doesn't see children as a disease to be cured, but rather sees God's hands in the creation of life no matter what the origin.  Not really a big surprise for people informed about religious belief.  But watching Obama's once sure victory slipping from their fingers, the media has jumped on this, hoping that our iPad generation doesn't have the time to think beyond the next iPad, and will simply lump this in with Todd Akin's statements about rape and pregnancy.

Fact is, Mourdock is expressing a common pro-life understanding of pregnancy and babies.  Just because a pregnancy happens from a rape does not suddenly make the baby therein a non-being.  The unborn baby is every bit an unborn baby.  The idea that God is at work is typical religious belief.  The journalists who act shocked about this might as well begin the conversation by stating 'I, for one, know absolutely nothing about religion or religious belief.'

On CNN, Roland Martin lashed out at this in a way that defines the pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion mentalities.  He asked if your daughter was raped, would you want her to keep the baby?  How you answer shows how you will see Mourdock's statement.  Of course I would.  A person in favor of abortion rights might not.  Therein lies the difference. But being outraged that Mourdock has said such a thing means you are simply outraged that 1) people don't  hold to your view of human life, 2) you are outraged that people have religious beliefs about God that you don't hold, or 3) a combination thereof.

FWIW, I suspect the committee to reelect Obama media will push this into the light to take attention away from the unfolding Libya debacle, and to press Romney into saying something stupid that could further alienate pro-life voters who are already suspicious about Romney's pro-life credentials.

Fr. Barron debunks scientism

Which is why you don't have to.  Anyone who thinks science has disproved anything about God is admitting they know little about science and its limitations  and probably next to nothing about philosophy or theology.  In this gem of a clip, Fr. Barron obliterates the modern pop-science fad of writing books claiming that science  has proven God doesn't exist, or the universe doesn't need God.  Beyond Stephen Hawking's famous 'the universe can come from nothing, all it needs is gravity', this cuts to the heart of where science ends, and where scientism begins.  In short, science is the wonderful method for learning about the material universe.  Scientism is the misuse of science in order to buttress an argument that is outside the boundaries of science.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Columbus Dispatch endorses Romney

Wow, didn't see that one coming.  The Dispatch isn't exactly a bastion of hardcore conservatism.  Still, I'm not exactly surprised.  In fact it does a pretty good job explaining why Obama deserves to lose: 

" After nearly four years of economic stagnation, massive unemployment, record-setting debt and government intrusions into the economy that have paralyzed the private sector, the United States needs a new direction. For this reason, The Dispatch urges voters to choose Republican Mitt Romney for president in the Nov. 6 election". 
"Four years after promising hope and change, and after a deficit-driving $787 billion stimulus program, here is the result, 12.1 million unemployed, with an unemployment rate above 8 percent for 43 of the past 44 months, 8.6 million working part time because they can’t find full-time work, 2.5 million who wanted to work, but have stopped looking for jobs, In 2009, real median household income was $52,195. By 2011, it had fallen to $50,054". 
The Columbus Dispatch daily newspaper editorial board wrote " In 2009, the U.S. poverty rate was 14.3 percent. By 2011, the poverty rate climbed to 15 percent, on Obama’s watch, 12 million more Americans joined the food-stamp program, which has reached a record of more than 46 million enrollees, annual federal budget deficits above $1 trillion for the past four years, increasing the national debt to an all-time high of $16 trillion".
That is why the Obama team, with the help of the national media, has tried to make this a referendum on the guy who hasn't had a chance to do anything yet.  And up until recently, it seemed to be working.  Obama's message that more or less said 'except for the things that suck worse, most things only suck as bad as they did when I took over' was working in our apathetic  narcissistic culture more obsessed with the latest iPhone app than what's happening in the Middle East.
But as election time draws near, more and more people are starting to put things together. This hardly means Romney has breached the 'deserves to win' obstacle.  He still appears to wake up and see if he can alienate as many of his base as possible on a daily basis.  But right now, the emperor is beginning to look quite naked to a growing number of Americans, and the saddest part is that if they realize the foolishness in giving him four more years to get dressed, they'll be stuck with a man who, at this point, can scarcely be counted on to maintain a moral stance longer than an American Idol performance.

A Praise report

So things have been unraveling about as badly as they can.  Already watching the last of our savings accounts hemorrhaging away, with little to no money coming in, the job prospect list just isn't growing.  I've had several interviews, but age, and a rather tumultuous last couple years, coupled with the 'former Protestant clergy' motif of my resume cuts me off usually around the first to second interview.  My wife has not been any better, so much of her life spent in Protestant Christian education.  Add to that the fact that there was a time when we were making pretty good money, and the reluctance that lower paying employers have for bringing us on, and there just isn't any light at the end of the tunnel.  At least not now.

Then yesterday, I found out for the first time I was overdrawn in my checking account.  I've had that account for I don't know how many years, and that's the first time ever.  Why?  Because a temp job I had a month or so ago said it overpaid me.  It made a mistake with the amount, and so it was supposed to send me a new statement telling me what I owed.  It never did, but apparently it went ahead and, without my knowledge, withdrew the amounts from my checking account.   So there I was, blissfully writing checks, and accumulating a boatload of overdraft charges in the process.

Well that was about the pits.  When you are losing money, it's bad enough.  When you end up with less money than you thought you had when you are losing money, that sucks.  So it was that things were a little down, until all of a sudden, I went to get the mail and voila!  In a card from some anonymous Catholic who knows of our plight, was a collection of gift cards.  And a generous amount as well.

One thing we can't say is that Catholics haven't been generous to us over the years.  The biggest problem is we can't get into the Church, there is nothing in the actual Church to employ us (and it's not for a lack of trying).  Most, apparently, just don't see the worth in my wife's,  or my, background, it being Protestant and not Catholic.  Positions that we were grossly qualified for have come and gone without so much as a phone interview.  So we are stuck.  The secular world sees little of value in our backgrounds, but unfortunately  the Catholic Church (at least in our neck of the woods) apparently doesn't see much more.

I know, I know.  What about those wonderful stories? There was a time when Scott Hahn and Marcus Grodi came into the Church that entire positions were created just for them!  Why, this diocese or that university or that Catholic ministry would literally create an 'office for this guy who used to be a Protestant minister'!  I know.  But that was when Ronald Reagan was president.  When MTV still played videos.  It was a time fast on the heels of Pope John Paul II's great emphasis on the New Evangelization and the need to reach out to our separated brethren.  That was then.  Today, the focus has changed.  Pope Benedict is not there, preferring instead to focus on reaching out to the Anglican Communion, Islam, and Secular Europe.

As a result, there just isn't an overarching interest any more in Protestant Clergy Converts.  Like Pet Rocks and Cabbage Patch Dolls, the fad has passed.  I'm not saying there is nowhere anywhere in the global Church that sees value in this, but certainly in these parts the interest continues more like a quaint tradition than a dynamic movement.  Most spokespeople for the movement, you must admit, are getting grayer and more wrinkled with age.  Converts in general seem to do as well as they ever have, but providing for family is not a big deal for them.  The Protestant Clergy Convert, however, seems less of a priority than it ever did, and even then it was not a major concern. There could be other reasons, but whatever the reasons, it is what it is.

Individuals, however, see it differently.  And that is one of the strange things about the Catholic Church.  What the Church officially teaches and what Catholics live out in their lives are often two different things, much to the chagrin of Church leaders.  And yet, as in this case, those individual Catholics with their own idea of things can sometimes rise to the occasion and give that cup of cold water where the bureaucracy and the institutional framework of the Church has no place for it to be given. So praise God for individual Catholics, who keep the faith, even if not always the way the Church would like.  Because sometimes, as my own experience has shown, they step up and do what the Church itself seems utterly incapable, or unwilling, to do.

A warning to Internet Catholics

If the Catholic blog you visit spends more time trashing political figures than talking about, well, anything else, you might want to consider a different blogging experience for a while.  I say this as I watch the implosion of Dinesh D'Souza play out on certain blogs. There's a non-Christian way to respond to such scandals, there is a Christian way, and there is a politically driven way.  If you spend too much time wallowing about the world of politics, your response might end up sounding as if it is influenced not by Christian tradition, but by the desire to score political points at the expense of a fellow brother in Christ who has fallen.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Way to go Bucks!

Wow, what a game!  And now with news that Braxton Miller was well enough to leave the hospital, we can all savor the sweet, sweet taste of victory.  Is it me, or did the rest of the team finally step up to the plate?  So far, it's more or less been the Braxton Miller show, costarring those other guys on the team.  But now, with less than a minute to go, several star players plus Braxton Miller injured, and eight points behind owing to an earlier safety, following an interception, the back up quarterback Kenny Guiton (who had thrown the aforesaid interception) came on the field to do what even your crack professional first rate teams would be hard pressed to accomplish: march it down the field and not just score a touchdown, but make the necessary two point conversion with seconds left on the clock. Overtime came and went, and with a touchdown to spare, we got a little revenge on Purdue, and avoided an embarrassing end in the Shoe to Urban Meyer's perfect first season.  Congrats to all, but mostly to the Buckeyes, who finally showed they were ready to share the spotlight with one of college football's most dynamic players.

Friday, October 19, 2012

He is now seventeen

Happy Birthday to our oldest!  It's been toughest on him.  In truth, it was he who was thrown topsy-turvey more than any of our boys.  We were snug in a private school where his Mom was a teacher, and he attended the church where his Dad was pastor.  Being the son of a pastor in a private Christian school, he had reputation already handed to him.  He was a good student.  He was well liked.  All was right with the world.  And then BAM!  We entered the Catholic Church.

When him Mom's school found out, she was unceremoniously dumped.  Suddenly our two older boys were back in the public school system.  Our 8th Grader wasn't hurt as badly, he was only in 1st Grade.  But a tremendous amount of schooling and social development was missed by our oldest.  And for the next, oh about seven years, he has had to struggled to make up for what was lost.  Truth be told, he's the one who has noticed the dividing line between good life/bad life and becoming Catholic.  We pray daily that his faith withstands, and pray even more that somehow our material redemption might come from the Church somehow, so we can point and tell him we weren't forgotten.

Nonetheless, despite it all, he is a good student, a faithful child, and a great young man.  He has hovered around As or Bs in most cases, sometimes all As, but sometimes the missed years outside the public school system forced him to play catch up.  Naturally shy and quiet, he never quite made it back into the social mainstream that he enjoyed as a pastor's son.  Through it all, however, he's made us proud.  He's a fighter.  Even when he flounders, he gets back up and tries again, and as often as not, he improves.  He's come a long way, but today, I just want to say Happy Birthday son, you make us proud!

My stages of history

A whimsical Friday post.  As we wander about waiting for tomorrow when our eighth grader returns from his Confirmation retreat, I thought I would use my Friday to reflect on some things that nobody in the rest of the world could care less about.  But for me, it's something.  I've often said that my love of history is one of the things that brought me first to Christianity, then eventually into Catholicism.  One of the main reasons is because of my love for Medieval history. But how did I get to medieval history?  How did the son of a railroad engineer with no real interest in that subject, and no particular books about the Middle Ages, come to a point of loving the subject enough to see through the Hollywood veneer and look at the Christian Faith of that period, manifested in the Catholic Church, in an entirely different way? Well, here's how.  For my amusement and anyone else this desperate for entertainment.

It all started back on State Route 42, outside of Mt. Gilead.  My family had moved there at the end of my 2nd grade year.  The house was on the highway  next to a couple other houses surrounded by fields.  The boy next door was what we called at the time mentally retarded, and his parents did what many did in those days: hid him from the world.  That was all I had.  There were a few kids a couple miles away, but nobody to play with that really meant anything to me.  So I was by myself.  I could play, but that was all.  There weren't many things on TV to watch, since we didn't have cable.  While other kids grew up watching Sesame Street or Romper Room on PBS, I watched old reruns of Hogan's Heroes or the old TV show Combat! on WUAB, channel 43, Lorain-Cleveland. Since we didn't have that channel, I was stuck making my own entertainment.

They're gone now, but their laughs are still around
The reason I liked those shows was that my family was chockablock full of war veterans  most of whom had served in the Second World War. My Dad, however, did not serve then, but rather joined the army years later during the Korean Conflict.  He served stateside at Fort Knox, and later Fort Hood in Texas.  Though he never admitted it, I learned as I grew up that he really, really envied his older brothers who served in the super colossal war that was the high point of the history of the United States.  I also learned that those who almost went to that war sometimes were a little more gung-ho about the glories of fighting it than were those who actually fought. This was reinforced because my Mom's brother Walt used to regale me with stories from the war - and he was the one who couldn't  go due to medical problems.  Mom's other brother, who served in the Pacific, seldom spoke about his experiences.

Years of fun as a child; and will you look at that price?
Still, the stage was set, and I grew up hearing tale after yarn about all that was World War Two.  Over the years  enough of the uncles and relatives who served tossed in their accounts to give me an appreciation for just what the war was all about - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So it was that while other kids watched Romper Room and played with Hot Wheel cars, I watched Combat! and played with expansive sets of WWII toy soldiers.  And in that year that we lived out on 42, when all the country was awash in our Bicentennial Celebrations, I occupied myself in our basement, spending endless hours with my Navarone playset, or trying to catch whatever war movies I could without cable.

The forgotten Holocaust, prisoners who survived Japan
Because of that, one day for no particular reason, Dad brought home a large coffee table book titled simply The Second World War.  The cover sported a B&W photo of SS Troops in parade down a large flight of stairs.  Inside, the text was credible  but limited due to the large number of pictures, drawings, maps, and charts.  The sheer volume of pictures in a pre-VCR/Internet world was enough to hook me.  These were the real things!  From the amazing to the gory to the stunning, I spent hours and days and weeks pouring over the book.  Some pictures disturbed my nine year old mind.  I remember one of a hapless German soldier who was crushed by tanks on the Eastern Front.  Another of a Japanese soldier, victim of a flame thrower attack.  Of course the Holocaust and Japan's brutality.  Brutal stuff.  It made me realize that war was not Hogan's Heroes or fun and games.

Eventually, I turned to our Encyclopedia Britannica set.  Both the older version, and the Junior High version. So enamored was I with everything I was reading, that I actually stood up and read the encyclopedia article about Adolf Hitler to our 3rd grade class.  Soon, Dave Griffey and WWII were synonymous   Football?  Baseball cards?  Cars?  Even girls?  I didn't care.  I immersed myself in everything I could find about the subject.  I should also mention that this fascination would never be replaced by other topics, though I'd like to think it did mature.

This was my introduction to history.  It took what I had heard, the stories, the tales, and it filtered it through a growing appreciation for what really happened.  And this remained for the next several years, until 6th grade, when the next subject of interest hit.

It was 1978.  Star Wars was everywhere.  Disco was the soundtrack of the year.  Gas lines and inflation were the topics adults talked about around the dinner table.  I was in sixth grade.  For reasons unknown, our small town joined an even smaller town named Edison, and kids near that burg of a few hundred people attended their own elementary school.  In 6th grade, however, we were all joined together in the Edison Elementary building.  The school was one of those schools right out of A Christmas Story: Brick building, wooden floors, chipped green plaster walls, a coat closet with old, iron hooks.  And my teacher was Mrs. Roberts.  At the time I didn't like Mrs. Roberts, and was convinced she didn't like me.  Multiple decades have not changed my thoughts about her feelings toward me, but I have softened a bit, and realize she was actually one of my best teachers.  I learned quite a bit from her, despite myself.  In addition to teaching myself chess during the endless days I was held inside during recess, I also picked up the love she must have had for social studies.

Images of Ancient Greece sparked my imagination 
In addition to a stellar unit on China, in which I was responsible for drawing the Great Wall, we did a unit on Ancient Greece.  I was given the subject of Plato for my report.  Most of it, quite frankly, went right over my head.  I think I remember it mostly because of the obvious impact the name Plato has on any kid who first hears it. But one thing hit me square in the eyes, and that was our textbook's section on Ancient Greece.  In addition to a description of ancient Greek life that almost transported me back in time and placed me firmly in the Agora, it also had a sidebar that told the story of the Minotaur.

I had never heard of the Minotaur before - no bull!

Again, my parents - and I love them like the world's greatest parents should be loved - weren't too keen on a broad range of literary subjects.  Mythology?  I had never heard of it.  If it wasn't on Super Host's Mad Theater, or on some made for TV movie, I didn't know it.  No books in our house would have such subjects, and what you don't know, you don't know to look up.  But there it was, a quarter page retelling of the Minotaur myth.  The idea of a group of youngster taken from their moms and dads, and put in some form of a maze, only to be devoured by this hideous creature, captured my imagination.  Suddenly, I wanted to learn more about this age, and any other potential monstrous threats that lurked in the distant past. Though my love of ancient civilizations would often end where the hero slew the Chimera,  I still developed an appreciation for that period in early Western Civilization that would stick with me until the present day.

In addition to the ancients and their endless battles with the abominable monsters of old, I maintained my interest in the Second World War.  Dad would, every now and then, buy another book or two for me to read.  As I got older, and recreating faux battles with soft plastic soldiers ceased to be an acceptable option, I found myself looking for other outlets to keep my interest in the subject alive. During this time, another development occurred.

Perhaps because of the timing of the year, I had developed a growing interest in America's colonial past.  I always loved the holidays, and Thanksgiving was that great moment when, as a kid, you realized Christmas was just around the corner.  For me there was the added bonus of my birthday being at the beginning of December   Pilgrims, therefore  played large in my favorable category.  Plus, my Dad loved the fall, and we would often go as a family and walk through woods, or go to fun scary places  or watch football games around that time.  For me, there was just something about fall that always made things come alive.  And timeline-wise, it was during this time that any social studies unit would cover Colonial America.

It didn't hurt that, in 3rd grade, our school put on a major extravaganza celebrating our country's bicentennial   It involved skits, songs, more skits, recreations of frontier life, tales of the revolution, songs about George Washington ("The president on the dollar, that Yankee-Doodle dollar, the president on the dollar, George Washington's his name!"), and of course, costumes.  I was the narrator.  My closest friend was Uncle Sam.  Even if we learned about some of the treatment of Indians, or slaves, or even how women couldn't vote, the balance was still on how great we were as a country.  Somewhere out of it all, I slowly developed an interest in that period.

Napoleon meets his Waterloo, and again I was inspired
Plus, I developed an interest in that period's approach to warfare.  Part of me was beginning to focus on the military aspects of history.  By middle school, I was starting to become aware of the entire revolutionary period, and in addition, the period of Napoleonic warfare   Again, with no real resources at hand, I went to the encyclopedias, found what books I could, watched any movie that might involve that period of time, and even hounded my parents of the boardgame RISK.  Anything that I thought hearkened to that period of time.  So by the time I entered high school, I could add the Colonial Period to my growing collection of historical interests.

But it was the early 80s.  The long awaited sequel to Star Wars just caught my attention, though not enough to go see it.  Fantasy was all the rage.  Science fiction was buoyed by Lucas's space opera, and an obscure game invented by fellows in a garage somewhere in the Midwest called Dungeons and Dragons was catching the fantasy wave, and pushing it in an entirely new direction   On the heels of this fad, Hollywood obliged, and soon movies ranging from space adventures to swords and sorcery were inundating the market.   For my part, though I loved Star Wars when it first came out, I was never into either form of fantasy, science or otherwise.  I still preferred history.

Alas, it was lost in a move long ago
Nonetheless, there were still elements that were pushing me in a more fantastical direction.  My freshman year, I received - quite out of the blue - an electronic boardgame (then all the rage) called Dark Tower.  Complete with an elderly Orson Welles pitching it on a television commercial, it was the game of games, and just about everyone I knew, of any stripe or background, wanted to play that fascinating adventure game.  I admit, it did pique my interest.  In 1977, the same year of Star Wars, I saw the first broadcast ever of Rankin and Bass's animated version of The Hobbit. Though I didn't give it much thought then, the more I saw it in the ensuing years, the more it inspired me to finally read the books and see what the fuss was all about.

The fact that in the early eighties, before social stigmas would finally squelch the phenomenon,  everyone who was anyone I knew from every conceivable social group was playing Dungeons and Dragons, also kept the entire fantasy genre more or less in my face.  And of course, the fantasy genre as typically understood involved a pseudo-mythical rendition of Medieval European culture. Eventually, castles and moors, dungeons and knights, ancient monasteries and that special dose of European folklore, began to tweak my thoughts and imagination.

The cover of Beowulf
Then, in Ms. Johnson's 11th grade English class, we did a section on the epic poem Beowulf.  At first, I was no more interested than I was in the Canterbury Tales right before it.  But then one day, Ms. Johnson read to us from the book Grendel, that tells the story from the main antagonist's point of view.  She then went on to describe the setting.  She explained that it was a dark, cold time when people huddled inside this vast hall, while outside in the impenetrable darkness lurked the monsters and the spirits and the terrors that only the rising sun would vanquish.  I can't explain it, but all of a sudden I had to learn more about this period!  And so it was, I began to find what I could about anything to do with Medieval Europe.  If it mean buying a D&D book here, or a book on knights there, or even pining for an old Atari game called Adventure, if it was medieval looking, it made it into my hands.

From there, of course, the rest is history.  My love of each period of history set the stage to learn about others, or sometimes outside forces brought me along.  In each case, I approached it with the same attitude I learned from my first history book: what you hear in tales and legends may not always accurately reflect what really happened.  If my Dad or others loved to tell tales about what those brave soldiers did landing on the beaches, I noticed those braves soldiers, as often as not, were more subdued.  When I saw the photos and graphic scenes in that first war book, I could understand why.

So when I went into other periods, I was prepared to set aside the common narratives, the accepted versions of what everyone really says happened.  To that end, I would rail against the growing tendency to see all of American and European history in the worst possible light.  I would also be highly suspicious of the general narrative, by my days in college, of seeing the Christian contribution to Western Civilization as purely incidental, it's only value in giving us the horrible against which to measure enlightened secularism. And that's how, after all those weird and twisted years, a simple table book led to my ability to look through the standard Medieval narrative and see something there in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  There's more, of course, when it comes to my historical theory and various approaches to the subject that I developed in college and graduate school, but those topics are for more serious posts.  This was, after all, meant to be a whimsy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

To all Internet Catholics who are debating what voting is all about

Who we should vote for, how we should vote, or if you think voting is a big fat waste of time or not, I give you the following straight from the Bishops' pens:

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental
moral evil. 
36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods. 
37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.

You'll notice it really isn't that hard.  It assumes we should vote because apparently the Bishops think voting is worth something beyond my focusing on my own soul.  Apparently, however, how you end up voting is up to you, as long as it's based on careful reflections on Church teaching and allowing your conscience to be guided accordingly, not based on party loyalty, personal loyalty to a candidate, adherence to an intrinsic evil, or, if I may, based on your own personal opinions that no matter what the Church says, you know all voting is evil, stupid, or all parties are evil.  There's more than one way to skin a non-Catholic inspired approach to voting.  Best to look to what the Bishops say in such cases, not what someone on the blogosphere says the Bishops really meant if you were really smart enough to understand their secret meaning.

Go read Jimmy Akin's blog

I've never said I was a Catholic blogger.  The temptation to go off the rails and start using my role as a blogger this or apologist that is too great.  I prefer to say I'm Dave, writing to myself, and others may read along.  Which is why I'm as inclined to look for an old Vincent Price commercial, or gush over my boys, as I am to reflect on Catholic teaching.  When I do offer opinions about this or that issue, it's because as a Catholic they interest me.  But that's all.  I'm not going to say I speak on behalf of the Church, and I am the way, the truth, and the life, and nobody can come to Jesus but by the way I see this or that teaching, the way I vote, or the way I understand this issue.

Sadly, far too many Catholic blogs have gone that way over the years.  Either for one reason or another, they became immersed in a sort of personal syncretism, where the blogger subtly (or not so subtly) merges two parts Catholic Teaching with one part 'clearly smart Catholics who love Jesus will see this issue the way I see it, or enjoy that book or movie, or whatever '

Which brings me to Jimmy Akin.  As many Catholic sites are stumbling over each other to insist that True Catholics Who Love Jesus will vote for Romney, or vote for Obama, or vote for anyone other than someone from the two major parties, or realize that despite what the Bishops think, all voting is a waste of time that leads to evil because all liberal democracy is evil anyway, Mr. Akin continues to do what Catholic blogs should do: speak to issues about the Catholic Church.  Not that he doesn't, or shouldn't, have his opinions.  Sure he does.  Nothing wrong with that.  But the overall emphasis in these last posts have been focusing on St. Peter here, or Pope Benedict there, or just kicking around some issues with the Mass.  That's where a blog that struts under the title Catholic Blog should keep it.  Let political issues be written about.  Nothing wrong there.  Let personal opinions be given.  But the focus should be on let's look at the Catholic faith.  Not let's focus on what the Catholics Church should have meant when it really said I am right, and the only path unto salvation is seeing what the Church will no doubt someday realize.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Marc Barnes hearts Andy Warhol

Really?  I had to read this article three times, but it looks like Mr. Barnes is giving a major kudos to Andy Warhol over the fact that Warhol was at once openly homosexual, and celibate.  I know, Marc is a young man still getting his way into the world with a wonderful gift of prose.  But Warhol the wonderful Catholic?

OK, there's the rub isn't it.  I noticed that among the comments, most of them are along the lines of 'cool man, I didn't know this, what a great guy!'  Though a few stepped up and pointed out that Warhol was, after all, part of the whole pornculture of the 60s and 70s, that Avant-garde universe that taught the world that wherever you can put your genitals for the ultimate orgasmic experiences,  there need be no morals to follow.  Sexual satisfaction was morality.

And that is the issue here.  Some in the Catholic blogosphere, in keeping up with the modern Catholic  confusion on the issue, are taking notion that same sex attraction is not in and of itself sin, and running with it.  In some cases, it's beginning to sound as if having same sex attraction covereth up a multitude of sins.  If you make, what Mr. Barnes calls, the laudable stand of openly declaring your sexual attraction while not acting on it, apparently everything or anything else you do is off the table. Attend Mass regularly.  Struggle spiritually.  And it's fine, no questions asked.

As one commenter points out, what about leading these little ones into temptation  What about millstones around the neck and all that jazz?  And why do we consider same sex attraction proudly proclaimed laudable?  When did that happen?  Not being a sin in and of itself is one thing.  Being a disordered appetite that is praiseworthy and to be sung over by the angels is something else.

All of this reminds me what I came to realize during the great Lila Rose disaster of 2011: the Catholic blogosphere is dominated by untrained amateurs  or trained amateurs who have only the basest academic training.  These folks aren't, for the most part, trained clergy, with years of theological education and actual experience in the trenches of pastoral ministry.  Without the checks and balances that come with vocational religious ministry,  they are free to inject their opinions,biases, viewpoints, dreams, hopes, fears, jealousies, triumphs  and any one of a thousand factors into their doctrinal musings.

It doesn't mean they are always wrong.  In fact, that's the problem.  As often as not, since there is plenty of information on Catholic teaching to be had, they are quite right   But one must be careful.  Before we know it, the path has verged ever so slightly off the straight and narrow onto a side street of conforming the age old teachings of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church with this or that particular opinion that makes me feel warm and fuzzy because I think that person, that song, that book, or that movie is just so darn swell.  Consumers of Catholic teaching via the Catholic Blogosphere be warned!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where did everybody go?

OK, everyone who has ever visited my blog is gone.  The stats section has been wiped out, along with scores of comments, followers, you name it.  It's as if someone or something came through.  I hadn't noticed before, but it looks to have happened a day or so ago.  Anyone know what happened and why?  All the posts appear to be there, though I haven't checked to see if images, videos and links work.  But either half or all of many other things are gone.  Wonder if it's a glitch like the one that hit a year or so ago.  Any ideas, please feel free to let me know.

And to our oldest a great finish to the Cross Country Season

Yes, it's another season under the belt, and we can't help feeling a little melancholy knowing there will only be one left after this year.  After a rocky beginning, not aided by the fact that he started out being hit with a virus that lasted over a week, our oldest finally wailed on his times by the end of the season.  True, he didn't hit his PR (personal record) this year, but he did hit a seasonal PR at his last meet, and that means something.  It means he was improving.  Once the crazy deluge of the Otterbein meet turned him around, he PR'd every meet except one, owing to bad weather and muddy conditions.  Plus, he improved his placing, and with some more training, may finally break into that coveted varsity pack by next year.  He'll have to work for it, but if the last few weeks were an indicator, he's turned a corner and is ready to reclaim some of the well deserved accolades he received when he first went out for Cross Country.  Well done young man, you made us proud.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The last football game of the year

For my super-seventh grader that is.  Well done young fellow.  Almost a year younger than most in your grade, and you held your own.  True, he hit a rough patch in the center, and I feel the timidity he showed during that time cost him being put on the defense.  But he finally came back, and by the end of the season was a starting receiver.  Still not up to the level of energy and overall bone-crunching aggression he showed at first, he still managed to turn things around and make some excellent showings, including being part of the team's best game at the end.  True, they didn't win, but it was their best showing, and hopefully will be something they can build on next year.  Until then, well done again, and get going on the conditioning!

Rest in Peace young Jessica Ridgeway

In one of those cases that screams for justice beyond tax supported internment, young 10 year old Jessica Ridgeway has been found.  Sadly, she was not alive, and it looks as though she may have been the victim of a terribly brutal crime.  May God grant strength and peace to her family and parents.  I can't imagine the living nightmare they will be forced to endure.  In such a case, I will support any wishes they have for seeing justice done.  Rest in peace beautiful child of God.  May you find rest in the arms of a better world than the one you were so violently forced to leave.  God grant that the perpetual light will forever shine upon her.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The wife of Jesus a fraud?

This may come as a shock, but it looks like, despite the media storm of attention that went on for a couple days, the whole fragment suggesting Jesus was not so clear after all.  Duh.  More reasons why the well informed child of the enlightenment doesn't get his or her information about reality from the media.  Of course I'm willing to give it time.  Just because the media says it's true doesn't make it true, and just because we have reason to believe it's false, or a modern forgery, or whatever, doesn't make it so.  It can take time. And just as the multiple contradictory findings regarding the Shroud of Turin show, test results often depend on the ideological or theological baggage you take into the lab with you, thus dispelling the notion that the science lab is where all things meet their opposite and everything is unvarnished truth untainted by subjective thinking.  Still, for those who were shaking in their boots over the idea that all of Christian history was wrong about Jesus not being married, I think it's time to relax and go do something else, like feed the poor, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, and things like that.

Why I'm not sold on Romney

I grew up in a household of Democrats.  True, my parents were part of the famous "Reagan Democrats" who jumped ship in 1980 because of Jimmy Carter's disastrously inept presidency.  But they were hardly, contrary to the portrait painted by Republican pundits today, in lockstep with Reagan.  Many was the time that my Dad would go off about something Reagan did.  They appreciated what he did when they thought it was right, and criticized what he did when they thought he was wrong.  There were times, youngster that I was, I forgot that they had voted for Reagan, to hear their criticisms of him.

The rest of the family, however, held to the party line.  They liked Reagan personally (back then you could), but would not vote outside of the Democratic party for anything.  It is that level of absolute loyalty to something like a party, no matter what, that is one of the things the US Bishops warn against when it comes to voting.  Thought I would throw that in there. So it wasn't surprising that I tended to lean Left in my political views during college.  True, I tended to support Reagan in terms of foreign policy, but since I was a liberal agnostic, my sympathies went Democrat more often than not.

By the time I converted to Christianity, I was definitely more to the center, perhaps right of.  The issue of abortion had begun to tweak my conscience, and I had watched so many of those grand, lofty dogmas of liberalism begin to be deconstructed by liberals.  Pretty soon, I was starting to notice that the most judgmental, the most self-righteous, the most dogmatic, the most intolerant people in the room were those who once paraded under the banner of relative morality and live and let live liberal enlightenment.

Still, there was enough skepticism in me to keep me from ever jumping on board and waving a flag for the GOP.  The warmongering Wall Street bombs and bank accounts party is what I had grown up seeing, and I wasn't ready to sign on.  When the ethically challenged Bill Clinton was spanked in 1994, I didn't do much more than laugh at his ghostly performance the day after the election.  Several I knew in seminary were no more convinced,  reminding ourselves that to many Republicans, Christianity simply came with baseball and Norman Rockwell.  If the Church was to be allowed at all, it was as a subservient partner to the political ambitions of the party.

Even by the mid-90s, when all faith in the media's objectivity was dashed on the rocks of the 96 election and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I was hesitant to join the Republicans  even as I watched the Democrats jettison one thing after another that I could use to justify going back to my family's roots.  Then I moved to Ohio.  In 2000, I did not support George W. Bush.  To me, he was someone who had no business getting the nomination, but who had used celebrity and wealth to ramrod his way into the party's top spot.  I was also not a fan of John McCain, because he, like most idealists, seemed to fail at the basic qualification of being as pure and straight shooting as he insisted he was.  Because of this, and because I dearly wanted to see the Clinton era of 'lies, not problem' put to an end, I wished to vote for someone I thought would be a better alternative.  Since in Ohio, you must belong to a party to vote in the primary, I begrudgingly joined the Republican Party, simply to cast my vote for who I hoped would pull out the nomination.

Since then, I've not been enamored with the Republicans as much as I've been aghast at the Democrats.  I consider the thing called liberalism to be a post-Christian revolution   That is why, IMHO, Christian traditions that attempt to embrace the various ideals of this revolution are doomed to fail.  You can't buy kosher ham, you can't fuse Christianity to a movement which believes all religion is myths and fairy tales designed to make sense of the universe.  You just can't.  The rotting away of those traditions that try to fuse the two are the proof.  This, in addition to the Democrats increasingly tolerating forces that are as hostile to traditional Christian beliefs as central Europe was to Jewish culture in the 20s, seals the deal.

Still, the Republicans scarcely have been better.  Despite the obvious results, many still believe that by making it easier for millionaires and billionaires to make more money, all will miraculously trickle down to the least of these in our nation.  It doesn't take a brain surgeon to look at the graphs and see this isn't the case.  Not to mention the Bush administration's embarrassingly inept prosecuting of the war against terrorism.  True, I consider his political opposition to be just as guilty.  If I'm to believe we're willing to slaughter millions for oil, I also have no problem believing the other side of the aisle would gladly trip up our own forces, even to the point of their deaths, in order to score political victory points.

In addition, you had Bush and the Republicans spending like drunken sailors  and ignoring the warning signs of an economy on the brink in just the same way that the Democrats under Clinton had ignored them.  I don't blame one party or the other for the economic meltdown.  Some of it had nothing to do with either party, but both parties have their share of the blame.  But most troubling has been the GOP tendency to embrace things once seen as being in the domain of the evil society.  I'm talking torture, I'm talking these drone attacks and the president's growing ability to assassinate individuals without trial or proof of guilt.

Not that the GOP has done it all.  Much of this has been pushed under the Obama administration.  While Obama promised to change everything, I think most of us realize he has changed nothing at all.  A weak and ineffectual leader, he has taken the worst of everything he was given and continued it, and the main changes were things that were morally and practically suspect at worse.

Yet Romney, with all he has to run with, has done nothing other than suggest he will follow the classic GOP mantra that if we just make it easier for millionaires and billionaires to get more money, all will be well.  And issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, torture techniques, and yes, our Drone War sans due process?  I don't know if he even thinks of these things.  I don't  know if he cares.  If he would just make a definitive statement. If he would just stand up and say yes, no, or something.  If he would be hot or cold.  But he seems to act as if he can't be bothered with such things, that he says whatever at any given moment, and his main concern is to structure the economy around those at the top of the ladder.  That's it.

Thomas McDonald has it right over at God and the Machine.  It's this reluctance to take a stand that has me wishing anyone else had been nominated to oppose Obama.  It was said best on a combox yesterday, and it fits my views perfectly: As of now at least, Obama deserves to loose, but Romney doesn't deserve to win.  Alas.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Was Biden victorious or was he rude?

That's the question.  It will probably be what determines who won or not in tonight's VP debate.  There was only one zinger, and that belonged to Ryan, who reminded Biden that he should know folks can sometimes say things the wrong way.  At times  Ryan did begin to wade into the deepest, darkest details of things, and not keep to a higher elevation overlooking the broad issues.  But he remained cool, calm, and polite.  Even when it appeared the moderator was happier interrupting him than the Vice President, or continuing to hold his feet to the fire while allowing Biden more leeway.

But the big question will be, how did anyone watch it see Biden?  For the MSNBC base, it will be a rousing victory.  For those who hate conservatives and the GOP, and would gladly unzip their pants and urinate on anyone with an R before their name, no doubt cheers and celebrations are going on over Biden's rousing victory.

For the rest of America  however, including Independents and even more traditional Democrats, just how will it be seen?  I don't think elections are won or lost on the VP debate anyway.  Biden certainly showed Obama what he thinks Obama should have done in the first debate.  But I've been watching debates since Reagan/Mondale, and I have never seen this level of rude, condescending, impolite, crass and jerkish behavior in a major VP/Presidential debate.  Ever.  Biden interrupted, sneered, spoke down, mocked, laughed, dismissed, and generally did everything but flip Ryan the bird.  At two points (and I wonder if this will be mentioned), he actually seemed to get down on Martha Raddatz.  I mean, I was almost offended just because my children were watching them, and I felt the need to tell them not to ever act that way.

So that will be the question   In our age of Reality TV, will anyone care?  If they care, will it be enough to taint the Obama ticket?  Only if a case could be made that this is the fellow one heartbeat away from the presidency.  But again, across the F-U base of the Democratic party, it was no doubt a monumental triumph.  What the rest of the country thinks, however, will be the question.

Newsweek lists its top ten presidents

And I'm still laughing.  OK, so anyone who goes to Newsweek for almost anything at this point has to be suspect.  I mean, folks who still trust the media in general have some explaining to do, but Newsweek?  Are you kidding me?  Anyway, this issue has Newsweek finally solving that age old mystery: who are America's greatest presidents, at least of the modern era?  Not to waste my money, I didn't actually buy the magazine   Instead, I skimmed over it in the checkout line at the grocery store.  In just a brief overview, I noticed a few things.

First, as can be expected, 7 of the top 10 mentioned were Democrats.  Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and Reagan were the three Republicans.  Reagan came in dangling at number 9.  Eisenhower, who has never really been more than mid-ground in most presidential lists, beats him handily.

Second, Teddy Roosevelt gets kudos for his emphasis on 'progressive legislation  and his works on the National Parks, natural resources, and Trust busting.  Of course many moderns bemoan his involvement in the Panama Canal and his chest thumping American Exceptionalism.  But for being a progressive in terms of nature and finances, he gets high-fives just the same.

Third, Lyndon Johnson, who was for the longest time considered at the bottom because of the Vietnam War debacle and the shady dealings behind it all, because of the questionable results associated with the War on Poverty and his idyllic Great Society, and because he lacked the support to run for a second term, comes in a healthy number 3.  I noticed that the emphasis was 'look how much crap he inherited  rather than 'look what he accomplished.'  Sound familiar?  Only the Civil Rights act, which he shoved through a reluctant congress (without mention that more Democrats opposed it than Republicans).

Fourth, our second impeached president makes the list.  This isn't odd.  In modern liberal circles, Bill Clinton has emerged as almost a second MLK.  The era of peace and prosperity when all was right with the world is usually used to cover up the fact that both the peace and prosperity Clinton was credited with had more to do with his opponents he worked with, or with the fact that a sympathetic media allowed him to deflect attention from warning signs that all of this would soon come crumbling down.  This was necessary,  of course, to protect him from having committed perjury in the high court in order to cover up during a sexual harassment investigation  Yet within months of his departure, America was subject to one of the most devastating attacks on its soil in its history, most of which was planned right under the nose of the Clinton administration while he was, er, otherwise occupied.

Likewise, the greatest economy in the history of the universe that Clinton had single-handedly made possible, which is why we were called on to ignore his indiscretions  turned out to be based on a thin, debt ridden and debt driven economy that experts were predicting as early as 1998 was going to blow up in our face.  Was he all bad?  No.  I actually supported Clinton on several issues (such as smacking Insurance companies down for running new mothers out of the hospital in mere hours after giving birth).  But it is what it is.  His whole presidency looked like the kid faking it through school, hoping he graduates before the teacher notice   So far, it looks like he did just that, at least according to Newsweek.

Fifth, this is based on the input of 10 distinguished historians.  Any time I see that in a news story I start to itch.  Especially in our modern scholarly atmosphere, where we have few real standards in research and publishing apart from 'advance this agenda', such a resume doesn't mean what it used to mean.

Sixth, Eisenhower ushers in the Middle Class.  Such sweeping, vague, and incorrect statements always sends up warning flags and reminds me I am not reading something that is meant to be accurate.  Fact is, the phenomenon of the Middle Class has its roots as far back as Medieval Europe.  True, it would not begin to find its full fruition until the suburban revolution of post-war America, but the middle class itself can hardly be considered as something Eisenhower himself ushered in.  Completely wrong?  When seen through a list of qualifying statements, no.  But hardly accurate enough to build confidence in the article and its esteemed historians.

Seventh, Barack Obama.  Would someone please tell me what this man has accomplished?  Other than ramrodding an unpopular, and so far inefficient,  health care reform that raises more problems than it solves, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for not being Bush, just what has he done?  Usually, he hands things over to the Democrats in Congress and says 'you do it.'  True, he isn't finished yet.  But that's why when I was growing up, most lists left Reagan off for the simple reason that he was still president  and there is no way to evaluate him fairly.  Obama's inclusion in the list, even if heavily qualified, suggests reading something else would be time better spent.

Bonus credibility point  Jimmy Carter was not in the list   Thank goodness.  There have been major attempts in recent years to lift Carter up as some under-appreciated genius who was one of the greats.  This, while the attempts to act as if Reagan was just wandering about, looking for the bathroom while all the great things of the 80s were happening, were all the rage.  The general treatment of Reagan is still there, though some progressives are finally caving and admitting that he got some things right.  But Carter?  One of the most ineffective, poor leaders in American presidential history at one of the worst points in American history?  I can't help but wonder if this is because of his embarrassing comments in recent years that repeatedly forced the White House to distance itself from him.  Perhaps there are problems he's having due to his age, but I wonder if his sudden absence suggests some on the left are tired of defying reality to defend someone who has become more trouble than he is worth, at least in their eyes.

Anyhoo, just a few thoughts tossed about as I giggled over the thought that I should take Newsweek seriously about anything, least of all something as charged as presidential efficiency.