Thursday, November 30, 2023

That sound you hear is our freedoms leaving the room

So I was working here on some bills and banking, with the local news on in the background.  Suddenly I heard a story - a long story - that some trustee in a local township is being called upon to be fired.  That's because he said a 'racial slur' when talking about Juneteenth.  

What caught me, other than the reporters camped out near the town hall like they were waiting for the white smoke, was an interview with a local representative of the NAACP.  She went completely terminator on the fellow, at one point saying his neighborhood should be made aware of this and should not tolerate him living anywhere near them. 

What?  Over a racial slur?  Over a word?  A single word?  And you say the communal equivalent of tar, feather and exile?  What happened to that lazy, crazy,  hazy liberalism I grew up with that said you can't ever judge? Rehabilitate and forgive, that's the ticket.  When exactly did that liberalism die?  But of course, it's more serious than a woman donning her Salem apparel when it comes to the wrong people saying the wrong things.  That is, he wasn't a black trustee nor was he Quentin Tarantino.  In those cases it would be fine.  

A friend of mine who is a Presbyterian minster, and no slouch as a historian, once told me that when you live in a free country like ours, tyranny is like a vampire.  You have to invite it in.  Which is what we're seeing with our catastrophic levels of divisions and group identity.  Hence the NAACP woman who apparently feels a single misstep is enough to be forever exiled into the outer darkness and loathed by entire communities.  

I wonder if she would like that standard applied to her. If she gets her wish with this fellow, I have no doubt she'll have her chance down the road.  Our Founding Fathers were smart enough to grasp that little fact of history that so many today are strangely forgetting. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ouch

I'm not a fan of appealing to comedy to make a political point, but I almost felt sorry for the GOP with this one:

At the end of the day, charging forth into battle with the GOP on your side is like storming the beaches with an accordion.  They have proven themselves worthless time and time again.  Reagan was a fluke, not the rule.  While I have no doubt about the sincerity of some in the GOP, the party as a whole looks on people like me as an annoyance at best.  And when it comes to fighting for the most important virtues and truths, I don't see them being worth much in the long run. 

And I know, there isn't much else politically to grab at this point.  Nonetheless, I never kid myself that the GOP is, at best, like grabbing a life preserver that is taking on water.  

Monday, November 27, 2023

When Catholics are the Left's best friend


Always comes to mind around Thanksgiving, as Catholics everywhere rush forth to pull the rug out from under the traditional Thanksgiving holiday customs and stories.  Remember, one of my core observations is that at any given time, with any topic under the sun, that thing we call 'The Left' can count on 1/3 of all who oppose it to join in a particular cause. 

Now, the Left is easy and pretty open to work with in this regard.  One of its most important tasks is to upend the Western tradition.  Call it evil, wrong, dumb.  Say we have been wrong about our history, our heritage, our heroes.  Anything.  Today labeling it with the unforgivable sin of colonialism, or imperialism, or racism, does the job since in our post-Christian age, forgiveness is passe.  Call something those things and it's as good as saying eradicate them now. 

But if you can't go that far, at least demand change, or say we ware wrong, the heroes were not, we've been lied to - anything that says the civilization we inherited is not real, is based on lies, was bad, whatever. 

Enter Catholics.  I've said the death of America began when we convinced ourselves that America had no right to be a WASP nation in terms of a common culture.  Even a WASP nation trying to assure everyone was free and had equal opportunities wasn't enough.  Apparently though China can have Chinese culture, and Japan Japanese culture, and Iran Islamic culture, and so on, America can't have a particular culture of its own.  

That was the context of learning what WASP meant when I was in elementary school.  There was a dark time in American history when America was a WASP nation - but then God said 'Let there be light', and our first non-Protestant was elected president!  Hurray!  One of the most significant events in American history, or so I learned in the day.  Catholics I knew back in the day, and even now, repeat that celebrated observation with gusto.  Often sprinkling it with allusions to old American Protestant bigotry against Catholics.  

Of course sane thinkers realized it would take no time to move from WASP to WASC, then WASR, and finally WASS real fast.  That's Protestant to Christian to Religious to Secular.  The Anglo-Saxon being a big thing then too, as Italians and Poles and Greeks were considered every bit the ethnic minorities in our country as Indians or blacks.  Of course today, as we chisel away at the remaining 'W' (white) part, anything from west of the Urals is part of White, and that has to go.

But this wouldn't be possible without the help of anyone not in the latest demographic designation that has to go.  And among those are Catholics - conservative Catholics, traditional Catholics, Catholics opposed to modern secular progressivism.  Because though they may despise and loathe and reject the Left's moves to overturn the West and America, they just can't resist at certain times of the year lending a helping hand. 

I first encountered that when I began visiting St. Blogs back in the mid-2000s.  It was heading into Thanksgiving that first year of my visits.  Most of the Catholic bloggers I followed were what you would call right of center.  But all of a sudden, I thought I was reading a secular progressive history book published by Pravda House.  I had no idea how wrong we were about the Thanksgiving story, even though it had been trounced for decades by that time.  I was stunned to see how worthless the Puritans were, or mean, or how those Protestants were really all about the slavery part, but a Catholic led the way.  Or how it was really Catholics who deserve credit for he real first Thanksgiving

And all those years ago, even then, I recognized the folly with this.  Is it wrong to go for accuracy?  To tell different sides of a story?  Well, no.  Depending on how you do it.  And depending circumstances. But there is a time and place.  I've said before there is nothing wrong with preaching against gluttony.  But I wouldn't advise it if you're in an anorexia ward in a hospital. 

In another age, if Catholics wanted to point out overlooked details, while not pulling the rug out from under the traditional story, celebration and events, no problem.  But I wouldn't do it now.  Because as I said, the Left is a patient and willing partner.  The only thing important is that you have someone - anyone - saying what America inherited, what we valued, what we celebrated, was wrong.  That's all. We can add the genocide and Nazi and racist filth later.  

That's why it's enough that even people not inclined to agree with the Left admit that some part of America we learned about was a lie all along.  Any part.  There will be plenty of others saying the same thing about other parts of the Western Christian Tradition.  And in the end, there will be quite a ledger of protests to justify the need to burn the whole thing to the ground - all signed by those who in most other cases are fighting like mad dogs to keep that from happening.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Hmmmm

I remember seeing this:  

Then suddenly, I see this:

Makes you wonder.  Don't think I don't.  

Friday, November 24, 2023

Speaking of family fun

This October was, shall we say, a little suboptimal in the fun and frivolity side of life.  I didn't mention it on the blog since I'm not inclined to visit such things on the readers, because I imagine others have their own problems.  I will when it comes to health or similar urgent concerns.  But this was what I call 'problems to deal with.'

That problem was my wife having her position cut in late September.  She spent years getting things running, solving the problems that were stacked to the ceiling, and generally fixing the mess that had been handed her years ago.  In keeping with the modern corporate mindset, that could only lead to one response from the higher-ups:  Cut her position.  She got things working, that's less money we have to spend by getting rid of the position!  Sometimes I can't figure why youngsters have no feeling of loyalty to the companies they work for today.   I'll have to think on it. 

Anyhoo, that was a cloud that hung over us throughout our usually festive time of October and Fall.  I'm happy to say that my wonderful wife was able to find another, better position, owing to her reputation and contacts and just general awesomeness.  It came with a title step up and pay bump and the whole nine yards.  That was finalized in the first week of November.  So you might say the whole of October, while still October, saw other things on our minds. 

Nonetheless, despite that and just the changes that go with life, we still managed to drag - albeit at times kicking and screaming - a few old fun traditions out to enjoy.  The sons joined us when they could, and when all were available it was great.  It was also our oldest's birthday, as it is every year.  Heh.  Again, it wasn't easy, and it was on top of what was already a whirlwind year of wonderful blessings and some pretty hefty challenges.  

But we managed to pull out some old fun times, a couple new fun times, and always improved by the fact that when they could, my son and our daughter-in-law came along as well.  So a few pics from a bumpy October and surrounding autumn, and hopefully smoother sailing ahead. 

No OSU game this year, as I said earlier.  But we took our youngest
to his first game at the local university.  He liked it and wants to go
back next year.  Mission accomplished!

The Ohio Historical Center has nifty things, including
an annual Sleepy Hollow fest at its 19th Century town set up. 
Featured was storytelling, which is a lost art, but a great one.

The youngest and oldest at Sleepy Hollow. The others having 
other obligations.  We're learning to make do.

By nighttime it did start to take on a spooky atmosphere.

Owing to his crippling allergies, our oldest can't eat out
at many places, including old faves like Olive Garden. So to
the best of our abilities, we brought Olive Garden to him for his B'Day

For his birthday week, he wanted to trek up to my old stomping grounds
and get some fresh squeezed apple cider at the orchard that marked 
my first field trip ever in kindergarten.  Three bros present this time.
 
We don't do a lot of the things we used to, but on our way home,
they asked to swing by the old cemetery we used to include in our 
annual 'ghost runs.'  That's the old mausoleum that looks it.

He, the strongest, is best helping my mom about.  That's a right 
sincere pumpkin patch, if I may say so. 

My son and daughter-in-law managed to come by
with us as we picked out our pumpkins.  The costume 
was a nice (and homemade) touch.

He would pick the biggest pumpkin he could find.

For some reason, my wife asked to let the leaves stay in the yard
until after Halloween.  I admit, I sort of like the natural look. 

The whole gang was present for carving pumpkins.  We used to
get one for each, and I had to do the carving.  Talk about tired hands.
Now they do their own (my mom draws her design now and we leave it 
at that)

Old decorations of the type my mom and dad had when I was young.
I like those better than the big, gaudy stuff today.

Mom showcases her holiday work of art.

She hadn't carved a pumpkin before!  New experience and 
possibly one of the most postcard deserving designs.

The three boys' pumpkins on Halloween night (our second
took theirs with them). 

Smaller than in times past, but still a bit of a spread for snacking
while handing candy out to the tricks or treaters.

The weekend after, we all took a drive through Amish country. First
up a railroad museum including a working roundhouse.


You forget how big those beasts were.  My dad was happy to see
the steam era go the way of the butte churn - noisy, cold, hot, dangerous.

I loved that they looked back at the same moment - I wonder why.

Not sure what our oldest is looking at, but he seems interested.

I don't know, but it may have caught his attention, too

In front of our house - photos don't do it justice.

Our son and daughter-in-law came by Thanksgiving evening for dessert,
including the annual 'eating of the pie crust' (started by our oldest when he was 
little).  The A Charlie Brown Christmas.  And that was a wrap.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Still a fun watch on Thanksgiving

 From saner times:


Hard to believe the show's messages included the obvious fact that fundamentalists are not the same as terrorists, that just because Republicans are wrong doesn't mean we hate them, and with the role of Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe, not all Democrats are always right.   My how things have changed. 

At least this is fun, albeit from a world long ago.  

A blessed Thanksgiving

Here's a fun thing my wife had sent to her on the new team she is now working with since our little spell over October.  It's what comes with being in a division focused on stats and legal matters I suppose.  Fun stuff, but interesting what is included - and what isn't:

In any event, a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 20, 2023

Because of racism

 This:

There are only four athletes who are billionaires, all of them black Americans.  It becomes more and more difficult to convince sane and thinking people that we are a Jim Crow nation of gas chambers and death camps and universal racism and oppression of minorities.  Remember, as my oldest son observed, the BLM movement didn't begin until after the reelection of our first black president.  That alone should give clues about what we're seeing. 

Beyond the obvious narrative breaker of non-white, non-Western and non-conservative protesters and activists praising Hamas and calling for the slaughter of Israeli Jews, we have this.  With more and more black multi-zillionaire superstars dominating various sports and professional positions, it gets difficult to convince poor, working class, low income whites that they nonetheless have the privilege owing to their skin color.

Not that everyone needs convincing of course.  Only enough.  And Catholics alone have shone we're equal to the task when it comes to providing people who will believe and embrace such bilge, no matter how much evidence is stacked against it. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

I see lead people

Last year I wrote about the games the family played most.  Those were games that the whole family played together over the years.  During the Covid years, our turning to board games became a major part of our family entertainment, since so many things we used to do were denied us by way of lockdowns and closings.  And there are only so many movies you can watch without going bonkers. 

In that list of games was the grand dam of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre - Dungeons and Dragons.  Believe it or not, over the next couple months I had several tell me through one venue or another that they were shocked - shocked I tell you - that this Catholic, former Evangelical pastor, former Baptist no less, played that controversial game of games.  Well, let me 'splain. 

I've written several times over the years about how I first stumbled upon the game.  How initially I detected no particular 'stigma' about playing it, from my peers or pop culture, any more than there was a stigma with the Trivial Pursuit fad or the Pac Man fad.  I also have mused on the media driven coalition that aimed like a Death Star laser beam at wrecking the game, and how it succeeded.  I've mentioned how, by the time I graduated high school, most guys I knew who played it not only stopped playing it, but denied ever having heard of the game. I always found that significant. 

For my part, after hearing of it for the first time, I went out and bought all the books I could in order to see what it was all about.  Walden Books and KB Toys were my main source.  Problem was, upon actually playing at a local game group in the basement of the town's First Federal Savings and Loan, I was less than impressed.  It was mostly fighting and arguing, which I could get aplenty in the locker room after the next gym class.  After a few tries I more or less set the game aside.  Besides, fantasy and sci-fi were not my cup of tea anyway.

Years later, preparing to head down to the main OSU campus for my junior year of college, I was playing poker with a group of friends after work.  One of their friends from high school was there, and he invited anyone to join a game group he was part of that played a variety of games.  I said sure, even though I didn't know him, and the group was already at the main campus.  The Wednesday evening I first went there, they were playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Usually it was D&D, or a variety of other card games, sometimes RISK or Monopoly, depending on how many showed up.  

It was actually fun.  The group was almost exclusively science/computer science majors.  The referee (that's DM, or Dungeon Master, to those in the hobby) was, along with me, the only humanities major there.  He was a literature major hoping to be a sci-fi/fantasy author.  Perhaps because of his creativity, he made the game fun and accessible to me.  A couple others tried their hands at running a D&D game over the next couple years, but I didn't find those as enjoyable.

Nonetheless, it being me at the time, I eventually worked them over toward more of a strategy/wargame focus.  At one point we even spent a few months playing Empires and Arms (until the fellow's roommate made him take it down from the kitchen table).

After the group disbanded owing to life moving on, that was that.  When I moved to Florida I knew nobody and had no contacts to call  upon.  I found a hobby store, because at that time I was trying to gobble up what old Avalon Hill wargames I could find.  There was a D&D game going on in the store, made up almost entirely of grown men.  One even drove a Corvette.  Nonetheless, it reminded me of my first experience.  Those grown men sat there fighting and arguing and almost yelling about what, to me, was a bunch of stupid trivialities about a game based on fighting dragons. 

Then I met my future wife, and most such pastimes went into the rearview mirror.  I brought up to her that I had played D&D, and did have fond memories about that time even though I seldom played it.  Baptist that she was, however, it was a long time before she warmed up to the game or the genre.

When my boys came along, and heading into the 2000s, I noticed that there was a new wave of 'Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Comic Book' focus in pop culture.  Driven by the news of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films, and overflowing from the Harry Potter phenomenon, I called this the Second Fantasy Renaissance.   

The obvious similarities only made Potter a bigger hit in the household 
Now the way I raised my kids was this.  I wanted them to be aware of their generational surroundings, within reason.  But I also exposed them to the things of my childhood, or earlier.  Or things rooted in our older culture in general.  Things I was interested in.  I didn't shove it down their throats.  I simply watched this old TV show or that old movie or read this or that older book from olden times.  At the same time, I encouraged them - again, within reason - to follow or like the things around them.  For instance, though I may not have cared for everything about the Potter books or the latest comic book movie, I found them harmless - at least compared to what I grew up with in the very freewheeling, promiscuous 70s and 80s. 

It wasn't surprising that the boys glommed onto the Fantasy/Comics fad at the moment.  That included seeing the newly revised D&D game, especially the vast line of plastic miniatures that accompanied it.  Had I been their age, I probably would have loved those, too. 

So I got my hands on the game (called by that time the 3rd Edition), and began priming the family for this, since I figured at least some of them would become interested in it anyway.  I always felt that, without imposing myself into their lives, getting ahead of the trends was the smart way to go. Plus, I must admit, there is a strange sense of nostalgia for this game, even if I never did much with it in my youth.  This has increased as, while I'm still no big fantasy/sci-fi fellow, I have grown to appreciate the genre more and have tried my hand at a variety of such books and movies over the years. 

My wife warmed to the hobby because you could still buy the old lead miniatures.  Those are ones you have to paint, for those with that particular skill.  My wife, always the artsy-craftsy type, actually found those enjoyable.  That was the gateway for her.  The boys simply came along when I opened the door.  I waited until my third oldest was at least old enough to have some idea about what was happening, and then began playing the game.  Already they had heard about it, and this seemed the better way to introduce them, rather than letting the world do it. 

After a few months, I confess I began to find myself under-impressed.  I didn't care for the game books as presented.  Yes, they were quality productions (until they fell apart from moderate use).  But it made me think of a game trying to be a computer game on paper.  The text was spartan and uninspiring.  The game was somewhat 'blah' in terms of its feel.  I seemed to recall a genuine feeling of inspiration when I read the original rule books back in the day.  This new edition made me think of stereo instructions with elves.  I compared it to chewing on tin foil.  

At that point, I went down into our basement, found an old box with books and paraphernalia from my younger days, and located the old, original AD&D books I still had.  Since I didn't play it much, they were in tiptop shape.  Because the hobby at that time in the early 2000s was centered around the latest, hippest, I was able to find multiple copies of those old 1970s releases for pennies on the dollar.  Today, perhaps because of the hobby bowing low before the Woke idol, such books will cost you in the hundreds. 

I gave those old rule books to the boys, and they were immediately taken by the charm, the feel, the basic atmosphere that they evoked.  For instance, in a section dealing with how to destroy items of special power called artifacts, one of the methods is: 

"Cause it to be broken against/by or crushed by ... the Juggernaut of the Endless Labyrinth" 

You have to admit, that is far better than 'do this feat with this skill at a -6 on your die roll' which was how the 3rd edition would render such actions.  Or, when describing a character of the assassin class, the text reads:

"Assassins are evil in alignment (perforce, as the killing of humans and other intelligent life forms for the purpose of profit is basically held to be the antithesis of weal)." 

Perforce?   Antithesis of weal?  Who writes like that for an instruction manual?  The boys agreed.  They said the new edition was simply a new edition of the original game.  But the original game was not an edition of anything.  Rather, it was the game statting direct inspiration from a wide variety of influences and cultural staples.   

L: D. Trampier, 1st Ed AD&D, R: Lang's Green Fairy Book, 1900
As one historian once said, the original D&D game was a bit like a ball of Velcro rolled through the lint warehouse of late 20th Century Western culture.  From mythology and folklore, to pulp fantasy and classical literature, from Bugs Bunny cartoons to Hammer Horror Films and Night Stalker episodes, the original rules took inspiration from anywhere and everywhere and simply added statistics.  And it showed in the feel and appeal of the originals. 

From that time on, the family warmed up to the game, enjoying the colorful (and at times quirky) presentation along with the more clearly defined links to the literary and cultural inspirations for the game.  We played it over the years, sometimes months at a time, sometimes it would sit on the shelves for months at a time.  But we always went back.  

Thursday, November 16, 2023

David French and Mark Shea are happy with Ohio's abortion ammendment

Yep.  What did Ohio's stupid bishops know?  They fought against a loosely worded amendment that would allow future laws to broaden abortion, and gender decisions to be constitutional rights for all citizens regardless of age.  But Mark praises French's enlightened take down of those who tried to keep abortion from being enshrined as a constitutional right, and the door opening for so much more.  

You know I'm not fan of Trump.  I didn't vote for him and even voted for Kasich, who by then I was no fan of, to stop him.  But Trump did do one valuable thing.  He drew out those who clearly were ready to go Vichy with the Left.  For them, Trump was ever an excuse, not a reason.  And the trees are visible by their fruit. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

So what did last week teach us?

First, that I'm obviously a Beatles fan.  I know.  Given the rot in our society it seems odd to be a fan of something that many consider instrumental in furthering that rot.  But as long as other Christians eat their slice of the worldly pie, and justify it with copious appeals to Romans 14, I'll still like the Beatles (and other musical offerings from the whole sex, drugs and rock and roll era - tens of millions dead from AIDS and drugs being something we apparently have learned to live with rather than give up our playlists).

Second, I'm clearly growing tired of 'Issue Blogging.'  Let's face it, the blogosphere of 20 years ago is dead and gone. Twitter and other similar platforms that distill complex issues into sitcom level one liners are now the rage for Internet discourse.  Many Catholic  bloggers, especially to the left of center, have moved to sites behind digital walls that keep dissenting views from troubling them (I kid you not, find more than a couple leftwing Catholic sites that still have open comments sections).  Meanwhile the shadow grows and the suicide of the West continues apace. 

My boys and I were talking some months ago, as you know we're wont to do.  While discussing America's willingness to let the Marxist assault on our nation win out, we were pondering how these things happen.  Perhaps because we abandoned God?  Let godlessness win out? Were cowards and wimps who looked for slick excuses to avoid actually defending virtue and truth?  Or, as one of my sons suggested, perhaps the whole reason America and the entire era of democracy existed at all was merely to thwart the Nazis in their goal of exterminating the Jewish people.  You know, a lifting up Cyrus sort of thing. 

I thought that was an interesting take.  It certainly isn't non-biblical.  God's ways aren't ours.  Which might be why, at this point, it looks like God has given our nation up to its lusts and impurities.  After all, whatever good the nation had is mostly fading from the historical stage.  The nation so many are desperately trying to save died many years ago.  Young people have been told to believe that the United States and all the West are defined by their unforgivable and unique sins and need only be eliminated.  Cue the Jews now linked with Israel which is seen by the Left as part of the West that has to go. 

In the face of this, continuing to prattle on about the same old same old gets a bit tiresome.  Stress for the sake of stress.  A growing number of Christians are surrendering and giving in.  Many church leaders are making it clear that there is nothing the world can throw at us that we won't find a way to compromise the Faith in order to accommodate.  The media is a propaganda organ that is less concerned about slaughtered Jews than it is pinning a single crime on anything associated with the West.  And young fanatics are getting worse on a daily basis because they are encouraged to do so by the powers that be. 

Therefore, constantly posting on the same thing over and over again is just posting on the same thing over and over again.  It would be like having a blog in WW2 and spending every day fussing about the violence in the news.  I do think we are heading where we are heading: a post-Western, post-democratic world in a post-Christian era.  Back to the old paganism, secular version.  No particular God of worth, guaranteed eternal paradise if that's your thing, physical worldly priorities otherwise. If we have to crush someone, we promise it won't be you. Because what matters most is you, and the World promises to accommodate you accordingly. 

It won't end with that of course.  That's the 'we promise, all animals will be equal' part.  Already we are seeing that modified to some animals being more equal than others.  Which seems fine for so many today.  Even now, Jewish liberals in the face of 'death to the Israeli Jews' chants are trying to twist their concern about being exterminated with their fealty to this post-religious, post  Christian Western movement and utter hatred for its defenders.  All while the alliance to throw down the West that includes, but is not limited to, Muslims, Chinese Communists, and anyone from any group disenfranchised by the West, continues to make significant strides.

Therefore, I'm once again going to back down.  I can't say I won't mention anything in the news.  I've declared that intention before, only to find myself drawn back in when we took another crazy step toward the end (remember me ducking out on the eve of the Kavanaugh circus?).  Same with last week.  Our state made it clear that sex and drugs and the right to abort anything hindering our libidos is our core value.  The typically lame and impotent GOP continued to lose, and even liberal school board candidates seemed to dominate the win column as schools become more open about sex for kids, gender change for teens, and post-Western Marxist propaganda in the curriculums.  What to make of that?  See the paragraphs above.  

In the end, empires rise, and empires fall.  Our is falling.  The Church is floundering because it's not difficult to believe that a substantial number of our leaders just don't believe it anymore.  In Europe and America, except for those rascally Pentecostals, the churches are dwindling along with the civilization they helped build.  In Asia the Faith is strong, and God bless those African Christians.  But like all things, our own progressive fellows have made it clear they'll heap no end of scorn and contempt on those swarthy and dark skinned types when they dare challenge a leftwing dogma.  Just like those slaughtered Israeli Jews who are barely mentioned now in the news or on leftwing sites (compare that to endless weeks and months condemning Kanye West over his statements about Jewish people). 

So now what?  Well, I like the blog.  But sometimes I miss the early days, when it was one part fun and frivolity, about two parts issue and news or commentary just to comment.  Sometimes I added reflections on the Faith or life, like this:

Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:  

Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? 

For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

Which came to mind in light of the crushing defeats of virtue and goodness we saw last week.  At the end of the day, the majority of us who inherited the West, including our leaders and religious guides, accepted the gospel of the World and have stood by amidst failure after failure to defend our inheritance.  Well, when that's the norm, blogging about it every day won't change things.

So I'll try to go back to the early days.  I won't not comment on the egregious, even as the egregious becomes more and more the norm. I'll try to reference funner things, family things, and just things in general. It may not be what people want (I discovered there is a stunning lack of Beatles fans among my readers), but it will be what I want.  

If I post on issues, I'll try to avoid being shaped by the latest news stories.  My sons often ask why I bother watching or reading the news at this point.  We know it isn't telling us the whole story, and sometimes verges on outright falsehood.  Why take anything the press says as any type of a launching pad for a thought, whether good or bad?  They have a point.  Not that all stories are false or missing important context.  But you never know which, do you?  As the late Michael Crichton explained with his Gell-Mann Amnesia principle: if you know the press got this story so horribly wrong because you know the topic at hand, why assume the next one dealing with a topic you don't know will be any better? 

Again, back in the early days of the blog the point was to sharpen my claws at writing.  I've always been a better public speaker (in certain settings) than writer.  A priest friend suggested the blog for that reason. And though I did reference the odd stupid or wrong or concerning thing coming from the world, I also posted on reflections, fun things, family outings, personal interests or similar topics much more often.  It may not have ginned up the readership, but it didn't feel like running up a down escalator every day either. 

So that is what I plan to do again.  As I said, I won't promise no more issue blogging.  When it finally hits the fan, I want my objections to be on record beyond just family and friends.  When future generations look back at this era and ask why, I don't mind my allegiances being on the public record, no matter how obscure.  I realize God knows, but it's nice to know that those future generations who will suffer for our folly will know who to blame and who not to blame.  But I'll try to find things to blog about that are more fun, light hearted, meaningful to me (and hopefully others) or just plain goofy.  That can only help at this stage in the game.  Goodness knows. obsessing about the latest has done nothing to stop the latest.  So why affirm the age old definition of insanity?

Monday, November 13, 2023

Post-Christian Catholicism

Is best demonstrated here:

If we wonder why Ohio enshrined the sex, drugs and abortion culture into our state constitution, you need only thank the majority of Catholics.  

Always remember, the biblical narrative is, as often as not, a minority witness.  It's the majority of those called by God flipping God the high middle finger, and loathing those who remain faithful in the process.  It is not a story where the majority always does the right thing and follows the commandments given them by the God who loves them. 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

For all the veterans

Veterans Day and Memorial Day can often run together.  Most of the time, as I've watched today, the emphasis seems to be on those who gave that last measure of devotion.  Or, if not, then on those who served in combat or during war.  Even if it's not stated that way. 

But properly, Veterans Day is for all veterans, war or peace, who served our country.  Even those today, serving in a hot mess dumpster fire military defending a dying nation.  We still 'honor' them, a word that seldom means much today, but we're told we should do in this particular case.  But then, the news recently said on Suicide Prevention Day that we should honor suicide victims.  Which I thought was wrong thinking to the extreme. 

But I agree that we should honor veterans.  Including those who had the good fortune to serve in peace time.  Therefore I post this picture:


It's of my dad, his dad and his two older brothers some time in the 1950s (his younger two brothers - also veterans - are not there).

To the left is his oldest brother, who flew in a B-17 during WW2.  Hollywood handsome and very proud of his service, he obtained a pilot's license after the war and maintained a passion for flying throughout his life.  He was also the most decorated brother, being the first US airman to shoot down a German bomber by himself (a Ju-88).  In those days any special accomplishment made you a celebrity in the name of ginning up support for the war effort.  Of all family members, he was most willing to discuss his wartime exploits.  In later years, those discussions did take on a more introspective tone. 

Next is my granddad.  He was not the best father.  Today he would be unforgivable in keeping with our enlightened developments as a society.  Struggling with drink and being what we call abusive, there was no love lost between him and my dad.  But he was a war veteran as well, serving in the merchant marine in the First World War.  Since I think I only met with him a couple times, and then as a toddler or younger, I can't say anything else about his service.  After all, Dad seldom mentioned anything about him other than his hunting for food and prowess at gardening (one of the few things Dad gave him credit for). 

On the far right is my dad's next oldest brother - and the one he was closest to.  One of those famous types who are gentle as a lamb - unless you push him too far.  One Christmas Eve, while driving in downtown Chicago, he was cut off by a city bus.  Enraged, he managed to swing in front of it, then stop the car, shut the engine off, and throw the keys on the floor.  The downtown traffic was backed up to Minnesota within minutes.  In WW2, he served with Patton as a medic, and was part of the Battle of the Bulge.  He was awarded a late commendation shortly before he passed from cancer.  That's when he asked my dad what the Ardennes was, and my dad explained that it was the Bulge.  His response was typical for him - all he could remember was it being very cold and people shooting at him. 

Finally there is my dad.  His younger brother and he went into the 1950s without much thought of serving.  His youngest brother was fourteen years his junior, and too young.  Eventually he would join and serve in combat during the Vietnam War.  

But my dad's younger brother didn't seem interested in living up to their brothers, and that suited Dad just fine.  Dad was, at that time, the 'rough one' of the brothers, and more concerned about getting in trouble with his friends (one such friend went to prison for murdering a man during a robbery - but  he was the one who encouraged Dad to date my mom, so there you go).  That side of him eased up once he became a father. 

One day Dad learned his younger brother had joined the army, simply because he didn't want to be left out.  The Korean War was going on, and he decided to keep the family tradition of combat veterans alive. That prompted Dad to join, since he didn't want to be the one in the family not to serve.  The two of them did basic together at Fort Knox (Agony and Misery), with Dad eventually spending most of his time at Fort Hood.  They didn't have a chance to serve in combat, because by the time they exited basic training, the Korean War armistice was signed.  

Serving in the armored engineers, Dad learned all you can know about building things and taking automobiles apart.  Hence that farmhouse he rebuilt from the ground up that I've written about.  He had a chance to go to school and learn how to work on helicopters (a new thing back then). But that would involve flying in helicopters, something he wasn't keen on doing.  Plus, he was older than most of his peers in the army, and was itching to get back to civilian life and continue his lifelong career in the railroad.  

So there you have it.  Veterans all, including those who were fortunate enough to dodge combat.  Mom's oldest brother and father were also combat veterans. Her dad served in the army in WWI at the end of that conflict, serving in the Argonne Forest.  Her bother served in the  South Pacific in the Army Air Corps.  It was his unit that was responsible for shooting down Admiral Yamamoto.  Her other brother couldn't serve owing to health problems (he lost a lung when he was little).  There were also other relatives, great uncles and all, who served in and out of war time.  But whether combat or peace time, this is a day to honor them all, and so I do.  

The Best Beatles Album Part 6

 Revolver - Released 8/5/1966

In April of 1966, riding the momentum of their trailblazing album Rubber Soul, the group moved once more into the studio to begin recording their next album.  George Martin said the thing he admired most about them was that they didn't rest on their laurels.  No matter how successful the previous album, they were prepared to leap forward and change everything around, and try anything new.  As they began working on this, Paul McCartney stated that, in May, he was floored by the release of the Beach Boys' celebrated album Pet Sounds.  Seeing them incorporate studio sophistication and innovation that made the Beatles seem almost dated by comparison, McCartney realized they would have to push and push fast to stay ahead of the changes they were inspiring across the music industry.  And it wasn't just the Beach Boys abandoning their surf and sun reputation to go full experimental.  Michell Cohen notes that "mid 1966 was the most vigorous period of pop expressionism and innovation in history."  Record stores abounded with a growing tidal wave of experimental and pioneering albums, such as Sunshine Superman, The Kink Kontroversy, Fifth Dimension (by the Byrds), and Daydream by the Lovin' Spoonful, to name just a handful.  McCartney, and to an extent the other three, felt to stay relevant they would need to shove the barriers out of the way and push the recording industry to the limits. As musicologist Wilfrid Mellers noted, this was the period when the Beatles moved the recording industry from merely being a means to an end, and made it an essential part of the artistic process of recorded music. And from there, by extension, they moved pop music into the realm of artform. 

Paul McCartney, notebook in hand, attends a music seminar at the Italian Institute

By now the high noon of Beatlemania had passed, and their decision to stop touring was largely made.  Their lack of growth as an organization left them behind in the touring world.  Playing stadiums, it was still them and a handful of friends and roadies who would put up and take down the equipment, or move stage equipment around when needed, or even carry their own luggage.  The sparce sound systems meant that, in most cases, the large venues were just noisy scream-fests with little music able to be heard.  At times their act looked no different than it did in the Cavern Club, where Brian Epstein first discovered them.  They were merely in front of tens of thousands of fans.  Plus, with albums like Revolver and Rubber Soul, it was clear they could no longer pretend to play their music on stage.  How does one play Yellow Submarine or Tomorrow Never Knows on stage in 1966?  Answer: you don't.  At the end of the day, the growing sophistication and professionalism of their records was making it impossible to maintain that original raw onstage energy from their earlier years.  They were eager to settle down and focus entirely on expanding the art of recorded music.  Revolver would demonstrate that like no other album to date. 

The most successful songwriting team of the 20th Century
"Although 'Eleanor Rigby' was far from the first pop song to deal with death and loneliness, according to music historian Ian MacDonald, it "came as quite a shock to pop listeners in 1966". It took a bleak message of depression and desolation, written by a famous pop group, with a sombre, almost funeral-like backing, to the number one spot of the pop charts."
For its part, Revolver is often called their best album because it is both the most Beatles-like and not Beatles-like album of their catalogue.  The aforementioned Tomorrow Never Knows marked the cusp of recording capabilities in late 1966.  Upon hearing a demo of it, Bob Dylan is reported to have said 'So you don't want to be cute anymore, huh?'  Snark aside, he saw that the Beatles were ready to move on.  And other offerings from the album demonstrate that fact.  Songs such as And Your Bird Can Sing, For No One or Good Day Sunshine sound more like the professional output of A list artists and professional songwriters and producers than anything the Beatles or any other rock musicians had produced by that point.  Likewise, beyond Tomorrow Never Knows, you had Yellow Submarine, the Indian inspired Love You To, and another celebrated orchestral tune, Eleanor Rigby.  The rest of the songs are equally strong, with the love balled Here, There and Everywhere easily competing with the best love ballads from the time.  It is also noteworthy that on this album, George Harrison was beginning to come into his own with three songs written by him.  Because of the maturity, the innovations, the quality and the professional output emanating from the music, I'm inclined to agree with those who say this, more than any other Beatles album, deserves to be named their best. 

Honorable Mention: Yellow Submarine (Soundtrack) -  Released 1/13/1969

This is a strange one.  If you include this album in the lists, then it is the one album produced by the Beatles that didn't go to #1.  Yet it really isn't a Beatles album.  At least not in the sense that their other albums were Beatles albums.  As stated earlier, by 1968 everyone - including the press - could see that the wheels were starting to come off the Beatles bus.  Ringo and George were already married, Jon was involved with Yoko, and Paul was beginning his relationship with Linda Eastman, later Linda McCartney.  Beyond all the other riffs and bickering, clearly they were beginning to feel the tug of domestic life and moving on.  As a result, the old energy and drive to keep the band going was fading.   Brian had died, and the music world was exploding with new acts and talent on an almost daily basis. Staying ahead of an ever growing pack isn't easy when other priorities are emerging. Hence1968 was the year when almost all of them began to realize the end was approaching.  Until the end of that year, Hey Jude was the only significant release from the group.  Except for this strange movie that was inspired by the second to last song on Side A of Revolver.  The song Yellow Submarine was a strange musical production that tapped into George Martin's haversack of resources from both classical and novelty recording.  It was inspired by a dream John had of a submarine chasing Ringo down the street.  Talks began about adapting it for an animated movie some time later.  The movie continued to draw on the psychedelia fad that by 1968 was all the rage.  In truth, the Beatles themselves had little to do with the film.  They didn't even provide the voices for their own animated characters.  A few songs, mostly songs already recorded but not yet released, were given to the soundtrack album.  Only a couple were written specifically for this project.   Much of the movie was filled with songs from previous albums that fit within the movie's 'storyline' - a bizarre brew involving blue meanies, snapping turtle Turks, the terrible flying glove, and the disturbingly drawn Mr. Boob, the Nowhere Man.  Despite its strangeness (or perhaps because of - it was 1968 after all), the movie was well received by both fans and critics.  Not a blockbuster or as successful as their first two films, it nonetheless helped - along with Hey Jude - to win back the good will they had somewhat squandered in previous months.  The movie's soundtrack album was released in January, 1969.   It went to #2 on the US album charts.  Again, most songs were either already released or merely thrown in from earlier work.  Side B was all orchestrations from the movie, no Beatles songs at all.  Many critics agreed that if anything should have been an EP, it was this.  It is also the only Beatles album I don't own. 


Afterword

The Quarrymen perform at the Woolton village fĂȘte, 7/6/1957

In 1993, the year I was married, the news reported that Ivan Vaughan had died of pneumonia.  Who was Ivan Vaughan?  He was a professor of psychology at Cambridge through the 1970s, until ill health forced him to retire.  Why did his passing make news?  Not from being a professor.  Not for retiring early due to health problems.  But because of something he did when he was fifteen years old.  

At fifteen, on July 6, 1957, Ivan Vaughan invited his sixteen year old friend James (Paul) McCartney to a villagfĂȘte that was happening at nearby St. Peter's Church.  McCartney wasn't particularly interested, but Ivan persisted.  Finally McCartney agreed and accompanied him to the gathering, where a couple local musical acts were performing.  One act, called The Quarrymen, was fronted by a wavy haired teenager wearing a checked shirt and playing a cheap guitar.  His name was John Winston Lennon.  Being friends of both Paul and John, Ivan introduced the two. 

Paul was immediately taken by the fact that John had the drive to form his own band at that young age.  John was taken by the fact that Paul could not only play but, being the son of a professional musician, he could also tune a guitar.  In October of that year, after several meetings and performances together, John officially invited Paul to join the band.  The rest, as they say, is history.  And it's why a relatively obscure former professor who died of pneumonia made the international news almost 40 years after that seemingly insignificant event.   

Six Years: L: c. 1963, R: the last photo session with the four together, 8/22/1969

“I tell you, Larry, there is no other band, there will never be any band like them ever … They are the best, I say to you Larry, here in 1965, that the children of 2000 will be listening to the Beatles.  And I sincerely mean that.”  Brian Epstein