Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mother Mary Angelica, R.I.P.

As most of you probably know by now, Mother Angelica passed away on Easter Sunday. My obit of this remarkable woman can be read over at the It's About TV blog.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week: "All Glory, Laud, and Honor"

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

NOTE:  The above refrain is sung at the beginning and after each verse below.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David's royal Son,
Who in the Lord's Name comest,
 The King and Blessed One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And we, with all creation,
In chorus make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Flashback Friday: Prisoners of love?

Budget Cuts Force British Government To Shut Down Mysterious Seaside Village

(via The Onion)

LONDON—Officials announced this week that the country's ongoing financial crisis would necessitate the closure of a mysterious seaside village operated by the British government since 1967. "In light of the current economic downturn, it is unwise to maintain this secret locale any longer," said a man identified only as Number Two, referring to the bucolic village whose sole aim appeared to be the recovery of desirable information from former intelligence agents. "Plus, the cost of maintaining human chessboards, outdated penny- farthings, and our state-of-the-art escapee- retrieval sphere just proved too much. We would have closed this whole place down years ago had it not been for one particularly uncooperative resident." The man refused to directly answer any questions about the village, instead using surreal imagery and oblique references before ending the press conference with a quiet and ominous "Be seeing you."


However, we have it on good authority that before the project was forced to shut down, they were able to make this promotional video:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wish I'd written that

Today's horoscope, courtesy of The Onion calendar:

"You will be jolted as if hit by a brick when receiving bad news next week, but only partially because it arrives wrapped around a thrown brick."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Flashback Friday: Pope releases NCAA bracket

(VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21) - New Pope Francis announced his NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket today, and revealed that he thinks the championship will be won by the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

In an exclusive interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy Father admitted that although he hadn’t had as much time to work on his bracket as he has in the past, he still feels confident about his selections.

“Notre Dame,” Francis said without hesitation when asked who he had winning it all. “I just have a feeling this is their year. If they can get past Ohio State in the second round, I think they will go all the way.” The pontiff added, however, that top-ranked Gonzaga should not be overlooked. “Never bet against the Jesuits,” he said with a smile.

In addition to Notre Dame, Francis’ other Final Four picks are Saint Louis in the Midwest, Georgetown in the South, and Marquette in the East. “I almost chose the Louisville Cardinals in the Midwest, but ultimately I stayed with Saint Louis,” he said.

The new Pope revealed that he had discussed his predictions with Emeritus Pope Benedict during a phone conversation the two had on Tuesday, but declined to reveal who the former Holy Father had winning the title. “I know he followed the selections avidly on Sunday. He and I disagree on some of the regions, but if he wants to share his choice with the world, I assume he will do so at the proper time.”

Francis expressed appreciation that this year’s Final Four, to be played in Atlanta on April 6 and 8, does not conflict with Easter. “With the liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, it can be difficult to keep up with the results. Thankfully, this year that will not be the case.”

The Pope chuckled when asked whether his election as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church means that his bracket is now to be considered infallible. “The Catholic faithful are under no obligation to follow my predictions,” Francis said. “In fact, my colleagues in Buenos Aries might suggest one would better off if they didn’t. But it has been a good month so far - perhaps it is a sign that my luck is changing.”

Originally published March 21, 2013

Monday, March 7, 2016

Don't take us down the path to defeat again

The other day, as I was reading about Mitt Romney's diatribe against Donald Trump, I couldn't help but be reminded of a speech given many years ago by the great Republican Senator Everett Dirksen. I wasn't quite sure of the time or the details, but I was fairly certain I could recall the gist of Dirksen's speech, and a well-placed Google search confirmed the rest.

It was at the Republican convention of 1952, which had developed into a two-way contest for the presidential nomination between Dwight D. Eisenhower, the hero of World War II, and Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, known to one and all as "Mr. Conservative." The issue in question was the seating of the disputed Georgia delegation, which was being contested between competing groups of Eisenhower and Taft delegates. Dirksen, one of the most influential conservatives in the Senate and a supporter of Taft*, had risen to defend the decision of the Credentials Committee to seat the Taft delegation. All this is background, but there are only two things that one needs to understand to appreciate the moment, which comes just under 18 minutes into this clip, when Dirksen turns and points toward New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who had sought the Republican presidential nomination three times, winning it in 1944 and 1948 before losing the general election, the second time to Harry Truman in the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" election.

*Dirksen nonetheless vowed to enthusiastically support whomever the Republican candidate was, as indeed he did.

"You took us down the road to defeat," Dirksen shouted at Dewey and his New York moderates, supporters of Eisenhower's candidacy, and indeed one wonders if the same words shouldn't be applied to Mitt Romney. It's one thing to come out against Donald Trump, as is Romney's right, although when juxtaposed against Romney's words about Trump just four years ago, one can see it as a bit ironic.

"This is just act one," an insider remarked after Romney's speech last week, and one wonders when the failed candidate from four years ago will just go away. In the great tradition of politics, the candidate from four years ago should do one of two things: either jump in the race as a candidate, or shut up.

As I've said, I don't have a real horse in this race. I have a candidate I favor, and I'm perfectly willing to allow that candidate to win or lose based on the results of the primaries and caucuses. I don't know whether or not Donald Trump is the real deal, but there's no question he's shaken up the establishment and challenged the conventional wisdom of party leaders, and that's something that badly needed to be done.

Political parties really don't much like conventions. Aside from allowing party leaders and delegates a chance to hand out favors and money to their friends and allies, to collect the same from hangers-on and moneyed interests, and to party for a week in a location where free food and booze are overflowing, conventions don't really accomplish much, not the way they did in 1952. Party leaders see conventions as messy things where dirty laundry can be aired, where delegates sometimes have the nasty desire to think for themselves rather than be controlled by the party establishment. No, they much prefer something cut-and-dried, where everything goes according to plan and we're left with boring, mostly ignored soundbites. Honestly, except for the graft, I think they'd be happier if there were no conventions at all.

Even so, one can hope, and if it should come that there's a fight over the convention rules, or if Romney (or another establishment surrogate) gets involved in a brokered convention, one could imagine a courageous speaker taking to the podium, pointing in the general direction of Mitt Romney"

"How dare this man, who four years ago snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, try to define what it is to be a Republican.

"How dare this man, who seems more at ease attacking fellow Republicans than the Democrats against whom he runs, try to tell us who is and isn't a Republican.

"How dare this man, who asked for your support four years ago, stand here now and try to tell you that your vote doesn't count, that you have no business deciding who the Republican nominee is.

"Governor Romney, there is only one thing to be said to you, and that is this: Four years ago we followed you, and you took us down the path to defeat. It is now time for us to be done with you, and I say to you, 'In the name of God, go.' "

Friday, March 4, 2016

Misappropriation of terms

Something has come to my attention over the years with regards to what we learn in literature, numerous trips to the theatre, especially for opera, and even with movies and television that has arrived at my attention because of a term that does not fit with popular culture when those who attend opera and live theatre will understand when considering the news North Carolina legislators plan tax breaks for what is called a remake of a popular 1987 movie.  Fan boards are complaining about the idea, but it took a reading back in middle school of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and frequent attendance in live theatre in order for me to consider they are not using the correct term.

The correct term that is not used is a retelling of the story.  Many great stories in literature are often retold, and the retellings are given credit (such as Beowolf).  When a theatregoer attends a live theatre event, things change in each different setting of the opera or theatre play, with directors and others making key changes to make the telling of the story considerably different.  It was reminiscent of a question they asked in a middle school literature class regarding Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to imagine how it would be set in the time (1980's) and not in 44 BC, with costuming and other text. Such examples of this I have learned are a Gianni Schicchi in New Orleans that was set in the city itself and not in Italy, the local Methodist college's setting of Die Zauberflöte set in the middle of New York City, a college opera setting of Il Barberi di Sivilgia set in the Roaring 20's, with flapper dresses and the "carnival barker" type outfits, and of course, as we have mentioned in the past, Der Schauspieldirektor set in 2010 Wien, complete with Herr Frank becoming Donald Trump, complete with suit and pink tie.

So why the hubbub over movies being remakes and not being called retellings?  Sure, we know Footloose 1984 was told in the Rust Belt of wide-open Michigan near the Motor City, and the 2011 retelling was set in the middle of Georgia in a far different era, complete with different genres of music in order to make the point we are not in rock and roll Midwest but we are in the country and western South.  And we know how different versions of the Robocop franchise were set in different eras, but especially in science fiction, we are supposed to predict what will be the technologies of the future, as we saw in the Australian-taped Mission: Impossible of the late 1980's because of the writers' strike, where the show began to enter the real of science fiction -- many of the technologies thought back then were even futuristic of the time 30 years ago, but are now legitimately used by detectives now.  If you retold a science fiction movie from the 1970's in the 2010's, you would predict what the future would be in 2050, not 2000.

So if Dirty Dancing is retold in a different environment, it cannot be set in the Catskill Mountains of the 1960's.  When the story is retold as in the franchise's Havana Nightssetting, the setting is evidently in Cuba around the time of the Revolution.  There is a festival in North Carolina that is being considered for this retelling, but the director has to make it a considerably different retelling such as the Appalachian Mountains in the 1980's, the coal mines in the mountain ranges, or the beautiful skiing resorts there in the 1990's.  Those of us who attend live theatre have the understanding that when stories are retold, they have different angles that allow regionalism to show its setting.  Maybe they should theme it in Appalachia, and in the end create a reason to visit the area. There is no justice in calling it a remake when it is a retelling set not in the Catskills of the 1960's but in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1980's or 1990's.

Post script:  Bobby's home church is supporting a mission in Oceana, WV, in the Appalachian Mountains.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

This Just In: God answers Barry Bonds

God Denies Bonds' HOF Claim, Says He'll Wait for Official Vote

(Heaven, March 2, 2016Yesterday, God said that despite Barry Bonds' recent claim that “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer,” He actually has not made His final decision on that yet.

“I haven’t made up My mind,” God said. “The whole steroid, performance-enhancing drug controversy is very complicated. I think I’ll wait to see what the baseball writers decide.”

Bonds ended his playing career with 762 home runs and a .298 batting average. But because of illegal drug suspicions, he has not yet come close to receiving enough votes to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame. He has six more years of eligibility.

“It’s not just Barry Bonds I’m puzzled about, it’s Roger Clemens and a few others,” God said, clasping and unclasping His hands. “There’s a lot to figure out these days. That whole Middle East mess, the 2016 presidential election. And now that Zika mosquito. What’s next? Seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Maybe I should have made more of them. Hours, I mean.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wish I'd written that: can the Catholic Church get any crazier?

The Pope is not world leader, the Church is a Communion. Its model is some contemporary presidency anymore than it is a feudal monarchy, he is after all servus servorum Dei [Servant of the Servants of God], he has the least place in the Church. He is the Pontifex Maximus, the one who build bridges. We did not see that during the Synod on the family; rather the raking open of old wounds, the aggravating of divisions, even the playing of faction against faction. The Holy Spirit, as any reader of Jesuit discernment of spirits knows, is the bringer of unity, healing and peace whilst factionalism, murmuring, divisions, folly, strife etc come from an entirely different Spirit.

"I pray for the time when every Catholic is so imbued with a sense of the ownership of the faith that he would tear a bishop or priest from his pulpit if ever he taught his own views in place of the revealed Truth. The thing is that the Pope shares in our faith: the faith of the whole Church, a communion that is both horizontal [and] vertical. It is not 'his faith', anymore than the Church is his personal fiefdom. His role is to denounce error, and to do so with care; we all know what will happen when the [master] returns to the steward who sets about beating the men and maid servants in his absence."

- Fr. Ray Blake, February 24, 2016

Whistling past the graveyard

As many of you know, I'm something of a recovering political scientist. In my younger years I was heavily involved in the political scene: chairing committees, volunteering for candidates, hosting a cable-TV show, attending conventions, even running for office. Fortunately, I've gotten all that out of my system.

However, having caught the political bug when I was eight years old, an interest in politics - even from the point of view of a detached observer - isn't something you shed overnight. Although I've made progress - I don't watch the debates on TV, I don't belong to any groups, and some years I don't even vote - I still keep an eye on what's going on. When I have time, that is.

It's in that spirit that I must say this year has been, from a spectator's standpoint, one of the most entertaining campaigns in years. I mean, who doesn't like to see a political party have a nervous breakdown, even if it's the party you once belonged to? And who doesn't get a charge out of seeing the other party on the verge of nominating a candidate none of them really like, because the only alternative is to vote for an aging socialist? Believe me, this isn't the kind of entertainment you can get simply by watching old TV shows.

It's also been instructive, insofar as it demonstrates just how out-of-touch with the rest of us are the elites governing this country, If you've paid a scintilla of attention to what's been going on, this won't come as news to you. It does, though, apparently come as quite a shock to the elites. Things that I've been saying, that others have been saying - for years! - come as something of a revelation to these party hacks, and not in a good way. It's the kind of revelation they turn from, much like some of the Biblical figures who cover their ears when a prophet gives them some bad news, and usually just before they're struck dead or turned into a pillar of salt. That the same thing is likely to happen to today's elites seems to be promising*, but it does beg the question: what happens next?

*Promising, in the same way that a ship full of lawyers sitting at the bottom of the ocean is considered a good start.

One of the nice things about being out of the political prognostication business is that I don't have to have an opinion on everything. If people, other than good friends, were to look to me in hopes that I could make sense of this year's campaign, I think I'd probably run screaming from the room. Since I don't have to have an opinion, however, I can simply relax in my recliner and chortle at the continuing bloodshed. That doesn't mean I don't have some opinions on the matter, though.

First of all, Marco Rubio needs to grow up. His namecalling of Donald Trump is beneath a man whom many already think is too young and too inexperienced to be President. When Jack Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he did everything in his power to convince voters that he was up to the task, that he wouldn't be learning on the job, that his youth did not signal inexperience, but rather a new and vital energy. Rubio seems content to demonstrate the kind of etiquette you see on the playground, sticking one's tongue out and saying "nyaaaah."

This isn't to suggest that Donald Trump is any better - but he is, at least in one way. When it comes to insults and namecalling, he's far better at it than Rubio, or anyone else out there. It comes off as confidence, nay arrogance, and often cringeworthy, but he doesn't sound like a petulant kid. Furthermore, he's played an important role in demonstrating to the public that the emperor, in the form of the Republican establishment, has no clothes. We may wish there was a different messenger delivering the message, but you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Someone had to expose these phonies for what they were, and Trump was apparently the only one willing to do so. Those who wish it were being done by someone else have to wonder if perhaps it's because nobody else felt that way. Or had the guts.

I'll probably be voting for Ted Cruz in the Texas primary today, because he's closest to my way of thinking, but I can't help wishing he was running a better campaign. There's no way Rubio should be beating him in some of these contests. All the same, I'm grateful for how he's made enemies within the Republican establishment. We'll just have to see what happens, but I think he has to win some Southern state outside of Texas tomorrow, or it will become much harder to take him seriously as someone who can beat Trump.

Speaking of the Republican establishment - have they been taken to the woodshed, or what? For years, I've said there was no material difference between the two parties. For example, they both want to spend your money, they only differ on where and why. But neither of them care about you. And their elitist attitude, topped off by the once invaluable but now excretory National Review, has been a shock. It's true that the politicians are out of touch, way out, but so are the pundits. If future candidates have gotten the wake-up notice that these fools aren't to be trusted, consulted with, believed, or even tolerated on the same continent, then that's been a good thing.

Which leads me to the collapse of Fox News. Yes, Fox has truly proven they aren't any better, or smarter, than CNN, MSNBC and the rest. They distort the news as much as any of them, they run with their own agenda and bend the news to make it fit, they advocate rather than report, they depend on personalities rather than serious journalists, and you can't believe a word they broadcast. For years I used to defend Fox News from the charges made by people who looked at the quality (or lack thereof) of programs on Fox broadcasting. I would point out that just because the broadcasting arm filled their time with slutty sexual innuendo and disgusting urban rap, you couldn't append that to all of Fox. The News Corporation was a completely separate entity, only sharing the Fox name. No more - with the exceptions of Lou Dobbs and Stuart Varney (and occasionally Neil Cavuto), Fox has proven that they don't know the meaning of the world quality - or of a lot of other words, either.

With all of that said, does it matter who wins in November? Well, as someone said, things could hardly get worse with Trump in office. He has said some very good things, and considering the shape of America right now, perhaps blowing the whole thing up and starting over is a good thing. It's certainly what needs to be done with our political parties, and soon - they've both shown themselves not only useless but duplicitous, utterly contemptuous of the common American, and thoroughly in tow with Big Business, for whom they will do anythng to keep them happy. Speaking as a conservative (whatever that means, nowadays), the spinelessness with which the Republicans in Congress exercise their authority reminds me of a story Churchill once told.

Referring to then-Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Churchill proceeded to tell the story of how, as a child, his parents had refused to allow him to see a circus sideshow act called "The Spineless Wonder." He then added that, until now, he had supposed he would have to live his entire life without seeing a spineless wonder - but then he saw Ramsay MacDonald.
Nor do the Democrats offer anything in response. Bernie Sanders seems to think you can give away everything to everyone, and his supporters are too dumb to know any better. They are, however, right in one important way - they sense something rotten in their party, they get the feeling their own elites are contemptuous of them, trying to push Hillary down their throats whether they like her or not. And is there a politician alive, including Trump, as unlikable as Hillary? Has any candidate since Herbert Hoover ran for reelection during the depression invoked as little enthusiasm among her supporters as she has? More important, neither of them respect the public and their concerns any more than the Republicans do.

Immigration, political correctness, the economy - none of this really matters to them, not as long as they can live in a world outside of the one they've created. Peggy Noonan, with whom I've had many a quarrel over the years, hits it on the head with this diagnoses, and follows it up with a column that accurately indicates why the elites are so far out of touch, one which I'm surprised The Wall Street Journal would publish considering their responsibility in creating that world. Peggy had something to do with it as well, but when it comes to repentance, better late than never.

How does it all end? I don't know, other than I sense it won't be good. This country is headed for a fatal division between multiple factions, one which defies peace talks because none of the parties even speak the same language, hold the same values or believe in the same things. It is a dialogue that cannot happen, because there is no common ground left. That's bad enough when you've only got two sides, as was the case with the Civil War. When you've got four or five, as is the case today, the only question worth debating is whether or not the splits will be violent. I pray I'm not around to see it happen (although, again, it would be entertaining as a spectator - one who didn't have to live in it), but unless God decides it's time to call a halt to the whole thing, the disintegration of the American Experiment seems to be a fait accompli.  One could argue that this was destined to happen from the beginning, and that seems increasingly to be the case. And whether or not that's the case, when you get to the point, as I have, that you don't even feel like celebrating the Fourth of July because there's nothing worth celebrating - well, in that case perception becomes reality.

Noonan ends her first column with words that would once have been overly dramatic, but now seem prophetic:  "In Washington there used to be a widespread clichĂ©: 'God protects drunks, children and the United States of America.' I’m in Washington a lot, and I’ve noticed no one says that anymore. They stopped 10 or 15 years ago. I wonder what that means."

So do I, Peggy. So do I.
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