December 30, 2006
Gratuitous Sitemeter Observation
Ya' know, I haven't the faintest idea who this Jillian Michaels person is who's suddenly advertising so heavily on Sitemeter, but I do know that she scares the bejaysus out of me.
Saddam Goes Home
Truth be told, I really didn't think it would happen. Instead, I reckoned there would be years and years of legal and political delay, culminating in some kind of cushy exile or even (possibly) a return to power.
Good riddance, says I.
December 29, 2006
Where Am I? And Who Are You?
Here's a strange little gadget: The Literature Map. (Poking around, the map seems to be part of some kind of website devoted to artificial intelligence.)
Type in an author's name and it generates a page of other writers of (I suppose) similar subject. According to the map, "the closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them."
I have no earthly idea how the rankings and preferences are tabulated, but the project appears to be in its infancy. For one thing, there are an awful lot of misspelled names. For another, one doesn't seem to get the same results for the same author each time. For a third, looking at a map generated for Evelyn Waugh, I'm at a loss to explain why Eudora Welty and (especially) Garrison Keillor should appear closer to Mr. Wu than anybody else.
Fun to play with, tho'.
"Oh No, Not Again." ***
Via the Blowhards comes this sick-making but nonetheless fascinating video from a camera mounted on one of the booster rockets of the shuttle Atlantis as it (the booster, that is) plummets a loooooooong way down.
I've seen one of these before. This one is particularly cool because you can see the other booster falling for a long time. On the other hand, there seems to be a gap just before the end - one second you're still way above the clouds and the next you're looking at 'chute.
I can't decide if the accompanying audio is actually a recording of noises within the booster itself or else just some kind of funky New Age score.
(*** Ten points for identifying the quote.)
UPDATE: I was having some trouble with the link and tried to repaste it. If it still doesn't work, go to the Blowhard link instead.
I also think the sound really is of the booster itself. But with music what it is these days, who can tell for sure?
I also wonder whether the "gap" I mentioned isn't just caused by the camera suddenly being jerked around when the 'chutes let go.
Robbo and the Church Militant
Not being schooled in such things (the ECUSA's position is that everyone is a Saint), I looked up St. Gereon in Wikipedia and got this:
Saint Gereon of Köln ((French) Géréon), who may have been a soldier, was martyred at Cologne, allegedly by beheading, probably in the early 4th century.
According to his legend, Gereon (called the "Golden Saint") was said to be a soldier of the Theban Legion. Gregory of Tours, writing in the 6th century, said that Gereon and his companions were a detachment of fifty men of the Theban Legion who were massacred at Agaunum by order of Emperor Maximian for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods to obtain victory in battle.
Some of his companions' names are stated as being Cassius, Gregorius Maurus, Florentius, Innocentius (Innocent), Constantinus, and Victor.
Saint Bede mentions that their feast was included in the Sarum calendar, as well as the calendars of Barking and Durham. Later medieval legends increased the number of Gereon's companions to 290 or 319, and Saint Norbert of Xanten is said to have discovered, through a vision, the spot at Cologne where the relics of Saint Ursula and her companions, of Saint Gereon, and of other martyrs lay hidden.
Gereon became a popular military saint and is often represented in art as a Roman soldier or medieval knight. Along with other saints who were beheaded, he is invoked by those suffering from migraine headaches. Helinand of Froidmont's Martyrium mentions Saint Gereon. St. Gereon's Basilica, in Cologne, is dedicated to him.
Yips! to the Maximum St. Benedict.
The Best Durn Reason Why There Will Never Be A Robbo V.4.
Knowing that I have three daughters, people sometimes ask me if I'm not interested in trying for a son.
Nope, I reply. Even assuming we didn't wind up with yet another daughter, I'd be in perpetual fear of something like this happening. Given the forcefulness of the Llama-ettes' collective personalities, I could see it raising a whooooole set of long term issues I wouldn't want to have to deal with.
Gratuitous Royal Navy Geekery Posting
On December 29, 1812, the U.S.S. Constitution captured H.M.S. Java off the coast of Brazil. Here are the reports of the respective commanders (or, in the British case, the surviving senior officer). Here is an excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt's description of the battle:
In this action both ships displayed equal gallantry and seamanship. "The Java," says Commodore Bainbridge, "was exceedingly well handled and bravely fought. Poor Captain Lambert was a distinguished and gallant officer, and a most worthy man, whose death I sincerely regret." The manoeuvring on both sides was excellent; Captain Lambert used the advantage which his ship possessed in her superior speed most skillfully, always endeavoring to run across his adversary's bows and rake him when he had forereached, and it was only owing to the equal skill which his antagonist displayed that he was foiled, the length of the combat being due to the number of evolutions.
As Roosevelt notes, it was ultimately the superiority of the American's gunnery that led to her victory.
Although this was only a single-ship action and had virtually no bearing whatever on the British naval hegemony of the time, it (along with several other such actions) nonetheless shocked and astounded both the Admiralty and the public, which had considered HM Navy to be virtually invincible, especially when up against the Yankees.
Patrick O'Brian fans will already know that a very good description of the battle, along with a detailed exploration of its psychological impact, may be found in The Fortune of War.
Gratuitous C.S. Forester Blegging
I've got to the bit where the Queen's propeller and shaft get damaged and need to be repaired (which event occurs while the boat is still in the rapids, not after our heroes have made it to the lowlands as in the movie). So far, at least, the primary difference between the book and movie is the book's much heavier focus on the transformation of Rose Sayer from repressed spinster to full-blooded woman during her journey with Charlie Allnutt down the Ulanga, some of it getting positively racy.
This has gotten me wondering: Did Forester himself have anything to do with the movie's screenplay? And apart from that, what did he think of the film? He didn't die until 1966, so presumably would have had ample time to see it.
UPDATE: Finished the book. The movie stays pretty faithful to it right up until the point where the African Queen sinks in the storm. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that the Hollywood Ending is considerably different from Forester's original. Dunno what he'd make of it, but if I were in his shoes, I'd have been pretty crabby.
That's My Church!
No, it's not the secession issue this time. Instead, the Arch-Bish of Canterbury comes out swinging on the Iraqi War:
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Williams voiced deep concern about both the decision to go to war and the policies pursued in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
“I am wholly prepared to believe that those who made the decisions made them in good faith - but I think those decisions were flawed,” he said. “And I think the moral and the practical flaws have emerged as time has gone on - very painfully - and they have put our own troops increasingly at risk in ways that I find deeply disturbing.”
He added: “I said before the war began that I had grave reservations about the morality of it. And as I’ve said recently, I haven’t really been convinced that that case was fully made. That’s not to impugn the actual motives of people making those decisions.”
Emphasis added. Now I'm just a simple soul so perhaps I'm missing some nuance here, but since when did the morality of military action become predicated on the difficulty of its execution? I mean, Britain declared war on Germany in 1939 after Germany invaded Poland. A year later, the BEF was in ruins and London and the Southeast were being blitzed to Kingdom-come. Would it have been more moral for the Brits to sit on their hands, given the "practical flaws" that emerged during that period?
Or another example: The Union made the decision to put down the Confederacy and finally resolve the free-state/slave-state issue in 1860. The "practical flaws" in that war are legendary, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, many more wounded and untold property damage. Would it have been more "moral" for the government in Washington to let the CSA go and hope, in a vague way, that industrial slavery would eventually crumble under its own economic weight? (Okay, maybe this isn't such a good example, as I can see most of our Southern readers answering "yes.")
And coming back to Iraq, if the allies had swept in, deposed Saddam, and left the country with a brand spankin' new, top o' the line peaceful and pluralistic society (plus a lot of dead terrorists) all in 72 hours with a casualty list of two sprained ankles and a bad sunburn, would the elimination of any "practical flaws" have changed the moral equation in Dr. Williams' mind? Or again, if we had discovered large, underground bunkers full of nuke bombs labelled "F.O.B. Tel Aviv" but still encountered the insurgency we're now facing, would that have made any difference to him?
Look, I respect gen-u-ine pacifists like our pal LB Buddy whose arguments about the morality of war are based on principle and (presumably) do not change with shifting fortune. The Arch-Bish says he was opposed to the Iraqi invasion from the beginning and perhaps he was. But piling on now with an emphasis on How Bad Things Are Going strikes me as an exercise in craven blowing with the wind.
UPDATE: Speaking of the War, INDCent Bill phones in his first report from Kuwait. Go check it out and consider hitting the tip jar at the bottom.
UPDATE DEUX: Also speaking of the War, how about a little Joe-Mentum, Dr. Williams?
In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term -- not what appears easier in the short term. The daily scenes of death and destruction are heartbreaking and infuriating. But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home.
Read the rest.
Gratuitous Bard-Related Observations
I saw this recent almanac entry by Terry Teachout:
"Age is a very high price to pay for maturity."
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
I note it here because it just so happens I rented the movie version from Netflix this week. This is probably the third time I've seen this film and I came away with the same feeling I had before: It's clever, but not half so clever as it thinks it is.
I say "the movie version" because I assume R&GAD started out as a play. Perhaps it works better that way. Anybody ever seen it on stage?
And speaking of such things, I rented Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing this week as well. (Not, as the Mater often alleges, to see Emma Thompson in the shower bit at the beginning. Well, mostly not.)
Anyhoo, I was amused by the bit in the "Making Of" feature in which Branagh discusses his decision to mix a number of Hollywood types into the cast along with the Royal Shakespeare Company regulars. He says he did it in order to bring a fresh perspective and new energy to the play (and thereby attract new audiences). But after viewing the movie again, I can't help but wonder whether it wasn't some kind of horrifically cruel joke instead. The fact of the matter is that all of the 'Muricans, as talented as they may be in their regular craft, are completely out of their depth trying to deal with Shakespeare and watching them mangle the Bard alongside the Brits is rayther like watching the San Dimas High School JV scrimmaging the San Diego Chargers.
From the NR gals
"Women of the Year" awards. Read it.
December 28, 2006
Saddam to face the gallows
Yips! from Robbo:
(Tastelessly hy-larious image stolen from Dr. Rusty's Sandcrawler.)
Random Commuter Observation
The one nice thing about working in Dee Cee between Christmas and New Year's? The trip into town is a breeze.
UPDATE: Another nice thing about it? Leaving the office a little bit early doesn't mean it's actually going to take longer to get home.
December 27, 2006
Q: How Do You Make A Celtic Cross?
A: Trod on his toes!
You are the Celtic Cross: This cross was first made out of stone and is often found atop hills, in front of castles and in graveyards throughout Ireland and Scotland. The stone was carved with various symbols including a circle or halo (representing eternal life) and variations of the celtic knot.
Take this quiz!
Yips! to Mr. & Mrs. P, who I hope feel better soon.
Obviously, I've Suffered No Permanent Hand-Eye Coordination Damage From My Holiday Revels
1445 feet on the ol' Hamsterpault, a new personal best. Here's the breakdown:
- 445 ft
- 54 ft
- 622 ft
The other day, the Llama-ettes came across me hamsterpaulting at home. It turns out that they knew all about it and, in fact, play it themselves. The best combined score among them is about 90 feet. So when ol' Dad sat down and started tearing off individual flights of 200 feet or so, the response from the gels was not far short of hero-worship.
I'll savor it while it lasts.
UPDATE: Somebody came over on a Google search of the highest score on flight of the hamsters. Glad to see I'm not the only seek, seeek, seeek one out there.....
Gratuitous Holiday Food Thoughts
Well, we're the number one Google result for the search term how to prepare Llama.
This reminds me that I botched the Christmas roast this year. Instead of that delicate pink one so likes to see, it turned out pretty brownish right the way through, like something from a hotel buffet line. The best I can offer by way of explanation is that I was jerked awake at midnight and again at four ack emma by over-excited Llama-ettes and consequently not at my mental best for coping with complex equations of time, temperature and poundage. Dammit.
On the other hand, I made (and ate) boatloads of broiled water-chestnuts wrapped in bacon. Is there a finer hors dourve in existence? I think not.
Yoicks! Hark Forrard!
Some news to warm my old Tory heart out of the U.K.:
Hunting supporters yesterday proclaimed their biggest-ever Boxing Day turnout, two years after the sport was supposedly banned.
Some 314 registered hunts set out, using legal exemptions allowing hounds to flush foxes to birds of prey and to guns, and the hunting of artificial trials.
Supporters in Hadleigh, Suffolk, demand the repeal of the Hunting Act
The Countryside Alliance estimated that 320,000 people attended hunt meets, some 45,000 more than usual.
The number of packs was swelled by the Dumfriesshire and Stewartry, which has re-formed for the first time since 2002, and a private pack, the first new mounted pack for 25 years, established by Roddy Fleming, a financier and a nephew of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
Some 200 gathered at the Murray Arms, Gatehouse of Fleet, to support the hunt. Jamie Blackett, the chairman, said: "The support shows why we had to restart the hunt and why I'm confident we will be out for many years to come".
Simon Hart, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, joined a crowd of 700 supporting the South Pembrokeshire hunt at the Cresselly Arms in Pembrokeshire. He said: "This is the second Boxing Day since the Hunting Act came into force and hunting has shown that it will not be broken by the ban. The Act's eventual repeal is becoming inevitable. It creates problems for everyone from huntsmen to police."
Just when I convince myself that the land which had produced Elizabeth, Wellington, Churchill, Thatcher and others too numerous to count has finally withered away to nothing but "Cool Britannia" ash blowing about the cold streets of Londonistan, I'm reminded that the truth is there'll always be an England.
UPDATE: Welcome Mary Katharine Ham readers!
Mmmmm.....MKH Linky Luv......Mmmmmm........
Arr, Which It's A Gratuitous Llama Book Review, D'ye See, Sa-Ha!
In a word, this book is insane. A fond send-up of the entire 17th Century pirate genre, it reads like a cross between Bored of the Rings and Treasure Island or, if you prefer your similes cinematic, a cross between Blazing Saddles and Pirates of the Caribbean. A sample:
Gloom hung in dank folds o'er the spectral castle on lonely Octopus Rock, gloom so thick, d'ye see, that it seemed to ooze through the battlements and drip down the sheer walls like treacle. No moon peeped through the lowering cloud-wrack, no faintest glimmer relieved the inky dark, save for the lanterns on the score of galleons riding in the rock-bound harbour, the guard-room lamp beaming above the grim castle gateway, the rays from a dozen crenellated windows in the massive keep, the flare of a match as a sentry had a crafty smoke, the whoof! of a chip-pan fire i' the cookhouse - oh, all right, the place was positively ablaze with light, and when the moon suddenly came out you could see for miles! Satisfied? It was still pretty dark in the corners, anyway.
The plot involves a stolen crown and carries you from Charles II's London to Madagascar and the Spanish Main. On the way, Fraser amuses himself by jamming every single swashbuckling adventure stereotype he can think of into the story, from an Erol Flynn superhero through six different Pirate Kings and their crews, damsels in distress, an insane Spanish Viceroy and his Donnish minions, lost tribes of South American Indians, the Royal Navy and a lowly gardener who loves his drippings. (Don't ask. You'll just have to read the book.)
Despite the fact that this book is a lampoon, it shares with Fraser's Flashman series a basis planted in the truth, about which Fraser has some interesting and intriguing things to say in some notes at the end of the story. He also provides a complete bibliography of his sources and it is a testiment to both his writing skill and the niftiness of his subject that it is only by main force that I have stopped myself going to Amazon.com and buying the entire lot in one go.
Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm...."
Spent a large chunk of yesterday afternoon fiddling around with a new computer game given by Santa to the soon-to-be-seven year old. It's one of those Sims-type games, only in this one you run a veterinary clinic (something the gel says she wants to do when she grows up), starting out by diagnosing sick rabbits and gradually working your way up to other animals (no llamas, apparently).
Maybe I'm just overly paranoid and cynical, but there's something about the feel of this game - the graphics, the music and so on - that bugs me. I can't help wondering if there isn't some secret code that, when entered, causes bass guitar music to start thumping and the characters to start saying things like, "Is that a tongue-depressor in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
UPDATE: Here it is -
And here's a screenshot of an "exam":
She ain't no James Herriot.
UPDATE DEUX: Of course, I may be biased by the fact that I can't find the controls for the trebuchet that would lay the vet's clinic to waste or the archers who would cut her down as she tries to rebuild it. I mean, where's the fun without that?
December 26, 2006
Gratuitous One Word Boxing Day Thought
That is all.
NEXT DAY UPDATE: Pardon the cryptic utterance. Had I been more lucid at the time, I'd have called for one of Jeeves' pick-me-up specials instead. All better now.
December 25, 2006
Gathering Christmas Roses
...and toasting the Queen on a cold and rainy Christmas Day in Albemarle.
Christmas Gardening blogging from Kelly of soon-to-be-transplanted north Kelly's Green.
Ladies, if you want to rivet the attention of the males of the species sitting around you
announce over dinner that you've informed your boyfriend that you would gladly go lesbian for Angelina Jolie because "she's gorgeous." This is a particularly effective technique if you are twenty-two, attractive, and toned up. Think I'm kidding? Just ask my sixteen-year old nephew--his attention span was fried at the same time mine was. This has been an LMC Public Service Announcement. We will now continue with our regularly scheduled programming.
Merry Christmas From The Llamas!
Rembrandt - Adoration of the Shepherds, 1646
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2: 8-14
Our very best wishes of the season to each and every one of you.
YIPS from Steve-O: It is only with the strongest of wills I'm not pshopping the above pic to add some LLamas to the manger scene....
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and Merry Christmas indeed to all the denizens of Orgle Manor. Thank you, Robbo, for being crazy enough to agree to join in on this partnership 3 years ago. It means so very much to me.
LMC---God bless you and your brave colleagues in Mother Army. Thank you for standing watch while foppish wretches like me go about my selfish, insular lives.
Chai-Rista---Merry Saturnalia, or whatever Festivus-esque thing The Big Heat's got cooked up for the week. Enjoy a fine week of world class BBQ, bottlerockets shot off the front porch, and may Santa leave you Kurt Russell, naked and scruffy, in your stocking!
Professor Chaos---Sorry, man.
Phin---any chance we can have a Christmas miracle of a really heinously tacky Christmas blog-skin materialize?
To everyone else, thanks for coming by and being the best bunch of imaginary friends a class B tumor could cook up in my beautiful mind!
December 24, 2006
The Traditional Christmas Eve post
From December 24th, 2004:
My most powerful and clear memory of Christmas as a child is from a year that I cannot place: I might have been eleven or twelve, probably no more than thirteen. The year doesn't matter.
We had a sort of renegade Roman Catholic Parish in those days, renegade in that our pastor--a saintly, kind old man named Father William Shields---was in a constant state of war with our bishop---His most Rotund Excellency Daniel Patrick Bishop Reilly, Bishop of Norwich, Connecticut. At the time, I thought that the war was because Father Shields was "old school"---that is, he was known to sing the mass once a month in latin and wasn't too keen on a whole slate of issues the Bishop was pushing. In retrospect, I now know the war was about something else, far, far worse: Bishop Reilly, now the Archbishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, was neck deep in with his lord and master the Most Reverend Bernard Cardinal Law of the Holy See of Boston. Standing between we the children of Saint Matthias Parish and the revolving stable of serial molesters being fobbed off by Law and his alcolyte Reilly was our old, stubborn, and deeply quiet pastor.
That Christmas was my first as an altar boy that I was old enough to be the crucifer, to lead the procession into the church. Christmas Vigil mass was always the best one of the year to attend at, as the red cassocks were broken out for that one occasion. There was always something about the stained glass windows too---they were shining brightly to the outside world, but inside they were oddly black, which always seemed fitting and appropriate at Holy Thursday as well as when walking Stations of the Cross, but seemed out of place for Christmas Eve. We would always line up in the vestibule next to the sacristy, and I can remember how dark it was in that hallway, the smell of the incense swirling, the heat of the candles behind me, the door in front of me with the mass schedule tacked to it. There were probably seven of us in line, plus the pastor. He would wait for us to stop fidgeting, and then would say, "Okay, boys, He's waiting" and the door would open.
I remember the door opening that night stepping off from the darkness of the hallway into the light of the church. The smell of the fir and the incense combined with the heat of the breath of the people smashing into the sound.
I have never felt anything in my life before or since like the feeling of stepping into that sound:
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Venite adoremus Dominum.
The feeling when that first Adeste hit me sent a wave through me, a feeling that became hardwired into me whenever I now hear those opening notes of Oh Come All Ye Faithful. The rest is a blur, of that day, and of Christmases growing up. But that one moment will be with me as long as I live.
Years later, after he retired and the Bishop finally had his unholy way with the Parish, I asked our pastor about what he would always say, "Okay, boys, He's waiting." I'd had some semeters of theology in college and wanted to talk about the idea of the Incarnation and all. He looked at me and laughed, not realizing the joke was on him.
"Steve, I was refering to Mr. Mostoway, the organist. He'd always get impatient and start playing faster if we didn't start on time."
Merry Christmas, everybody.
"There's no place like home"
I'll never forget the sight of Mrs. LMC and the Future Four Year ROTC Scholarship Recipient at the airport on Thursday or the sight of the post headquarters decorated for Christmas (located, of course, amidst the vast real estate holdings which comprise Fort LMC). My predeployment training is finished and yours truly is on leave until early January when I'll return for the start of that all-inclusive travel package to the cradle of civilization. With a little luck, I will be able to post every now and then from Forward Operating Base LMC. Many thanks to all who have expressed their support for my soldiers and our families. It means more than we can ever express. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
December 23, 2006
And God Bless Us, Everyone!
Merry F'n Christmas from Kathy the Cake Eater
Hi there, my very few devoted
Cake Eater Llamabutcher's readers. It is I, Kath the Absentee Cake Eater. I'm sure the newbies in the audience are wondering who the hell I am, while the few longtime readers Robbo and Steve-o have managed to keep over the years are disgruntedly muttering, "What the hell is she doing over here?" Well, to kill the proverbial two birds: I'm a pal of the boys from waaaaay back, and Robbo has graciously allowed me to throw up one post about the hell that is soon to be my Christmas holidays with my in-laws You see, normally I would post about this over at my blog, but since the husband told the in-laws where to find said blog, that avenue of angst-removal has been removed. So, it's either get it out over here, or I'll be forced to go and buy copious amounts of liquor (they're teetotalers, so I'd have to buy it for myself) and get drunk while visiting so I can tell them what I really think of their hospitality.
I think we can all see where it would be wiser to bore you to death with a blog post, eh, my devoted Llamabutcher readers?
Anyway, you'll have gathered that I don't have the best of relations with my husband's parents. While they're good people at heart, I just don't get them. I don't get their behavior, or how they prioritize their values. I don't get how they manage to live their life wrapped snugly in bubble wrap, the world outside their door never penetrating past the strapping tape. I don't get how judgmental they can be, and how holier-than-thou they are when viewing other people's lives. And I really don't get why my mother-in-law hasn't jettisoned her circa-1973 living room furniture, or at least had it reupholstered to something that would have been fashionable in the mid-90's. After twelve years of marriage, I've given up on getting them. It's simply not worth my time to come to some understanding of them. I've tried and I've failed. I don't really have a problem with this and the husband is smart enough not to push it. We somehow manage to coexist peaceably, our mutual love of their son keeping things on the polite side of the equation...except when we have to visit. Then, it becomes a matter where my tongue bleeds from biting it to keep the peace. I'm always glad when we leave. Life can return to normal, and where I can have my usual two glasses of Chardonnay in the evening and not be accused of "having a drinking problem."
We're flying out to visit them later this evening, and there is already one matter on which I've been told to keep my big fat mouth shut and that is Christmas Dinner.
To attempt to make a long story short: the mother-in-law's immediate family lives near to their southern Arizona location. Ever since the in-laws moved to the great southwest six years ago, her family has volubly rejoiced that they can stop freeloading off their parents (for whom they are waiting to die, so they can cash in) and can now start freeloading off the in-laws. (This move is meant to keep their parents from disinheriting them for being freeloaders, or so I'm told.) This hasn't made my father-in-law very happy over the years, but the mother-in-law thought she couldn't say 'no.'
Apparently, she decided not to cook a traditional Christmas dinner this year to make her point. I'm actually pretty proud of her for growing a spine in the face of her two brothers' abject and well-documented worthlessness. BUT...I'm not exactly pleased that she chose our visit to make this point. Why? Because she's serving SLOPPY-FREAKIN'-JOE'S for Christmas dinner.
Yes, you read that right: she's killing the fatted can of Manwich for her son's visit.
When we heard this we were, understandably, torn. The mother-in-law rarely stands up for herself, and we think this is good in the scheme of things. But, the thought of eating freakin' Sloppy Joe's for Christmas (CHRISTMAS!!!) dinner kind of pissed us (read me) off. We offered to pay for and cook Christmas dinner. She, of course, refused, mainly because she hates us puttering around in her kitchen, not because of any further spine-growing on her part.
So, when families across America will be sitting down to a Turkey dinner with all the trimmings, we shall be sitting down to (paper) plates of Soppy Joe's, replete with chips and apple slices. While this will undoubtedly be good for my waistline, it makes me feel very much like Scrooge, wondering what, precisely, is the point of "celebrating" Christmas without the turkey and enjoying the tryptophan coma that follows? If you're going to do it, do it right. That's always been my motto and serving Sloppy Joe's for Christmas dinner is not doing it right in my book.
Hell, even Scrooge had turkey for Christmas dinner. The bugger's one up on me this year.
Ah, well. C'est la vie, no? I sincerely hope I can keep my chardonnay away from the freeloaders and that my consumption doesn't go through the roof in the meantime.
Have a very merry Christmas, my fellow Llamabutcher readers, and if you're having turkey for Christmas dinner, have a drumstick for me.
YIPS from Steve-O: The Return of Kath the Cake-Eater for the traditional airing of grievances? It's a Festivus Miracle!
12/25 UPDATE or the "IT'S OVER WITH, THANK FREAKIN' GOD, IT'S OVER WITH" UPDATE
So, I'm down here in southern Arizona, about ten miles from the Mexico border, where freeway signs listing distances are denoted in kilometers, not miles. Mass last night was in English, but all three masses this morning were in Spanish. I had tamales for lunch yesterday and later in the afternoon, the cashier at the grocery store looked at me oddly when it became apparent that I had no working knowledge of Spanish. (And here I thought that "Do you take Visa?" was universal. Not so. It really isn't everywhere you want to be. Now point me to a lawyer so I can sue them for false advertising.)
Yet, despite all that, today we still managed to have a typical midwestern meal, with typical midwestern folk.
Hell, we even managed it twice.
The same meal that is. My mother-in-law's now infamous Sloppy Joe's were served to us not once today, but twice.
Today, I have come to the conclusion that I have no need for Dante to come back from the dead so he might muster all his creative forces to imagine a new circle of hell for me; I simply needed to visit my in-laws for Christmas. Where Sloppy Joe's were served for the noon meal, which most people call "lunch" but which the average midwestern retired farmer (aka the husband's grandfather) calls "dinner." The leftovers from this lunch were served for "supper" at five-thirty this afternoon.
Over chat about cockroaches and cow pies with the occasional racist epithet thrown in for spice.
My mantra for the day was "Chardonnay and Marlboros are your friends." And believe you me, I spent as much time with my "friends" as I possibly could today.
So, suffice it to say, I hope you all had a very merry and gastronomically satisfying Christmas.
Because I sure as hell didn't.
Lest we forget . . .
NR reminds us of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. I travelled to Bastogne ten years ago and its inhabitants remember the siege and the Screaming Eagles' defense of the town like it was yesterday. My brother married a Belgian gal whose mother was an eleven-year old who hid with her family in a basement during those awful days. I was introduced to her during my trip and conversation was awkward for the first few minutes--Madame spoke no English and my brother's wife handled the translation. After a few minutes, I heard my sister in law tell her I had been an officer in the "cent et une division paracommando." Her mother's demeanor changed instantly--she kissed and hugged me, and started speaking so fast her daughter could not keep up with the translation. She showed me a bedroom in her home converted to a library with every book that had been published on the battle in French and Flemish. We departed later with a generous selection from her vast beer cellar. The talking heads say that America is hated in Europe and no one remembers the effort it took to free Europe. It may be so in some places but in one small town in the Ardennes the sacrafice made so many years ago will not be forgotten.
December 22, 2006
John Denver and the Muppets singing the 12 Days of Christmas
Cheesy-classique 80's Christmas song, reinterpreted by college radio chicks circa 2006
The other end of the spectrum:
Flashman and the Moonbat
I'm well away into George MacDonald Fraser's latest (well, from 2005), Flashman on the March, which relays the adventures of Sir Harry Paget Flashman, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc. (aka Flash Harry) with Mad King Theodore and other interesting folk during the Abyssinian Campaign of 1868.
Rollicking good fun, as usual, but I can't help but be a bit saddened by GMF's apparent need to make a political dig in his introduction:
For Flashman's story is about a British army sent out in a good and honest cause by a government who knew what honour meant. It was not sent without initial follies and hesitations in high places, or until every hope of a peaceful issue was gone. It went with the fear of disaster hanging over it, but with the British public in no doubt that it was right. It served no politician's vanity or interest. It went without messianic rhetoric. There were no false excuses, no deceits, no cover-ups or lies, just a decent resolve to do a government's first duty: to protect its people, whatever the cost. To quote Flashman again, those were the days.
Must say, leaves a distinctly nasty taste in one's mouth. Fortunately, GMF confines his bloviating to the introduction and does not allow it to muddle up the story itself.
Of course, the great danger of screeding away while events are still unfolding is that a few years down the road one is in danger of looking like an utter moron. You'd think that having researched history so thoroughly, GMF would remember this.
Melissa Wiley takes on the Book of Ecclesiastes
A time for...
The Novelty of the Ancient
Stunning post by The Colossus.
And yes, I realize we've been quite the little religious clearinghouse as of late. As much as I try to leaven things up with useless celebrity gossip, it keeps dragging me back in...
Done To A "T"
Poor "Chip" of the Crack Young Staff over at THQ has a run in with Susan B. Anthony on the Boston subway. I had a similar experience with Sacagawea this past summer in a Mobile, Alabama self-serve parking lot.
The only advice I can offer "Chip" is to get married, have some kids and let the Tooth Fairy adopt these things as her official currency when the time comes. Otherwise, they're pretty much useless.
"It's like the bizzaro world version of Alien v. Predator"
Still Looking For A Last Minute Present?
How about one of these?
Not this one, of course. After all, like the man with the Liver Donor's Card, I'm still using it. But we've got plenty more in stock and nothing says "et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis" lilke a couple o' llamas in sunglasses.
Well, I've got THAT going for me
Jack Bauer, the coolest, toughest, bad-asssss in the world, and yours truly, are now both 40.
What's in a name?
Question: I lived the first 39 years of my life having never met an "Aidan" in person. Now, culling through the Christmas cards, there's ten of them. What's up with the sudden popularity of that name in the past three years?
(I have a thing about this, having been named "Stephen" in its peak year, and having gone through elementary school upwards with 6-7 other Steves, Stevens, etc. in class.)
Merry Christmas, You Heretics!
Basil Seal has some rules for non-Papists thinking of crashing Midnight Mass. Among them:
Rule 5: When everyone kneels, you kneel. When everyone stands, you stand. When everyone sits down, you sit down. There is a Missal in the rack before you, inside you will find the service, so you can follow along. Sorry, no video is available, you will actually have to read it...Oh, and if you are doing this right, it will be in Latin. If you need help, ask a Catholic. Before entering a pew, Catholics genuflect toward the altar, so do not knock some poor old blue hair down in your rush to take her seat. And while you are there, it would probably be good to genuflect and then prostrate yourself before the alter and beg forgiveness.
Read the rest - complete with gratuitous 'Palie-bashing!
I've often dwelt on the ironical thought that the two highest Holy Days, Christmas and Easter, also are the two days I most loathe going to church. This is no coincidence, of course - I just can't stand the "C & E" crowds, whose milling about, whispering and (during the music) talking, dropping things and general cluelessness make it terribly difficult to concentrate. In general, the only spirit I feel move me is the one urging me to kick my neighbors in the shins and remind them that the service isn't a @#$@)#* cocktail party.
(Oh, and of course, we know that Jesus was, in fact, born at 10:30 PM on Christmas Eve, not Midnight.)
December 21, 2006
Heh, heh, heh. To paraphrase the New Yorker's review of the Marx Brothers' Night at the Opera, "doing to Pachelbel what ought to be done to Pachelbel."
(Having played the cello for a bit in my own yoot, I also found the intro jokes quite amusing.)
Gratuitous review of Rocky VI
Obviously, I won’t clue anyone in as to how the exhibition match turned out, except to say that, sadly, Rocky Balboa doesn’t suffer a brain aneurysm and die, which introduces an otherworldly fear that, potentially, this might not be the last we see of Rocky. But the film does have one saving grace: its almost poetic treatment of Philly. Sure, it’s a poem written by an illiterate, nine-year-old Mongoloid, but it’s still kind of sweet, in the same way that receiving a hand-painted drawing from a toddler for Christmas is. It’s a shame, however, that you can’t hang Rocky Balboa on the refrigerator and forget about it until Rambo IV comes along
Yips! from Robbo: OTOH, Gary the Ex-Donk loved it.
I take no sides for the simple reason that I must be the last living human being on the planet who has never seen a single, solitary Rocky movie. (Tips hat.)
What's In A Name?
From the Tasty Bits Mail Sack (TM):
We own three llamas on our ranch outside Houston. What would you name a llama if you owned one? Furthermore, why would you want to own one? They smell, they spit, and they aren't terribly bright. But we love them just them same.
We named one Dhali Llama. We named the other one Osama Bin Llama. And
we are looking for a name for the third one.
Well, if you're going for a continuation of the celebrity name theme, the only one that pops into my head at the moment is "Tony Llama."
As for non-celeb names, I'm pretty fond of "Robbo Llama," but that would be juuust a wee bit to weird for me.
I reckon there are plenty of bright ideas floating around the peanut gallery, so have at it everybody.......
That's My Church!
The Maximum Leader flags a WaPo piece in which High Priestess Katharine Jefforts-Schori serves up the ECUSA's message of Inclusion Uber Alles and nails the pertinent question in response:
You know something... Bishopress Schori's statement is filled with references to good deed and helping the poor and downtrodden. There is fleeting reference to "widely varying theological opinions" and that is the point to which your Maximum Leader would like to ask a question. Is it important that a church have some sort of core beliefs? Perhaps the core beliefs of the Episcopal Church are helping the poor and downtrodden. That is fine. It would also put the Episcopal Church in the same grouping as the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs. (Your Maximum Leader almost typed in the Salvation Army, but the Salvation Army is a strongly Christian organization.) But at what point do some of those "widely varying theological opinions" need to be made a little less "widely varying?"
Indeed, he's hit the proverbial nail on the head. Conservatives within the Episcopal Church will tell you that it has been drifting away from any kind of theological coherence in favor of designer piety and an all-embracing social activism for years. And if you read the writings of, say Bishop Spong or Marcus Borg, you'll see the truth of this claim. Indeed, I believe that some of the more progressive elements of the Church have even embraced wiccan and pagan worship and/or ritual in their quest for inclusiveness. And, although it's not widely reported, a motion declaring the Bible as the ultimate source of spiritual authority never even made it out of committee at the 2006 General Convention.
However, I believe the Church is shortly to be called to account, because the issue of core beliefs is exactly the question being threshed out under the rubric of the Windsor Process, the Anglican Communion's response to the ECUSA's 2004 General Convention.
One of the pieces of that process is the development of an Anglican Covenant, the purpose of which is "to give explicit articulation and recognition to the principles of co-operation and interdependence (sometimes called “the bonds of affection”) which hold the Anglican Communion together." A good bit of this focuses on the interrelationship of the various members of the Communion, but it is my understanding that the Covenant will be based on a very explicit set of core principles, some of which the ECUSA no longer follows.
In my opinion, these are the real metrics to watch (as opposed to the current rebellion within the ECUSA) because each member of the Communion, perhaps at the next Lambeth Conference in 2008, is going to be asked the simple question: Will you adhere to the Covenant or will you not? Those that cannot commit will no longer be full members of the Communion, although it's possible according to one idea floated by the Archbishop of Canterbury that they could hold some kind of "associate" membership. "Anglican In Name Only," as it were.
I think that's when the Communion wafer will hit the fan as far as the ECUSA goes because I simply cannot see Her Priestesshood submitting to such a Covenant. She might try some kind of prevarication akin to the non-apology apology served up by the ECUSA in response to the 2004 Windsor Report, but I've an idea that most of the rest of the Communion wouldn't buy that for an instant.
In any event, if the ECUSA is chucked from the Communion altogether or else reduced to some kind of associate membership, the split within the Church, currently a trickle, will turn into a torrent: those who embrace Kiwanis Episcopalianism, as the Maximum Leader calls it, will go one way and those looking for spiritual cohesion the other. And perhaps that's the best thing after all. But that is why I've started beating the educational drum now - I believe it to be my responsibility to see that each member of my parish is as well-informed as possible when he or she eventually is called upon to make that choice.
UPDATE: Oh, and by the way, I just wanted to extend a huge thank you to everybody who's written comments and sent emails in response to these posts (and to apologize to anybody who's getting tired of my ranting). Your kind words and prayers are deeply appreciated.
Also, I've made plain that I want to gather as much information and insight as possible, so I strongly encourage anyone with something to say to go ahead and drop it in the Tasty Bits Mail Sack (TM).
UPDATE DEUX: Wow. It looks like I've been tossed into a serious Anglican link dump.
Gratuitous J.K. Rowling bashing
Apparently, not all is well in the writing of Harry Potter and the Gaping Morass of Mediocre Suckage:
LONDON (AFP) - Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling said she is having bizarre dreams about being the boy wizard as she struggles to finish the final book in the hugely popular series.
The author wrote on her website that she dreamt for the first time that she was in Potter's head and roaming around the magical world she has created for him.
The 41-year-old hinted that the stress was getting to her as she writes the closing chapters of the seventh and final Potter novel -- in which she has hinted that the beloved hero may be killed off.
"I'm now writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more," Rowling revealed.
"I don't think anyone who has not been in a similar situation can possibly know how this feels. I am alternately elated and overwrought.
"I both want, and don't want, to finish this book (don't worry I will)," she wrote.
The intertubes are a buzzin' today with this hot new pic of Robbo the LLamabutcher swingin'---Anglican style.
(My memory is probably distorted, but the worst task in 9-ish years of being an Altar Boy was holding the censer during a procession. The trick was getting it in front of you at arms full length, but at a good angle, say 2 oclock. If you held it sideways, you'd get clipped by the priest, full in front, you'd get the cloud of incense in your face. You also had to keep an eye out for the style of the priest. Our saintly parish priest had a gentle censer swing--he would hold the chain three quarters of the way to the end, and give it a quick but gentle swing on a short parabola. One time we had a visiting priest (who was a stuck up butthead from the Diocese, but that's another story) and he nearly took out my teeth. I was standing behind and to the right, holding the dish of incense, and he whipped that sucker back without holding the chain except by the big ring at the end. Nothing quite like three pounds of lead, brass and smoke whipping unexpectedly by your head to get you to focus on the Almighty. Father Sheilds, our parish priest, told me that he was going to name that particular censer "logos," because the Word was almost made Flesh. I didn't get it at the time, but it always makes me smile.
The Diocesan priest, by the way, is one I hold a personal animosity towards. (I can't remember whether I've ever written about this) He was the one who effectively silenced me. At a separate Mass, I was standing next to him at the very end, and we were singing the final hymn. I was singing with gusto, but not very well. After we proceeded to the sacristy, he turned to me and said, "Some can also give glory to God by not singing." Like a bad magic trick, to this day I cannot open my mouth to sing.
I guess it could've been much worse, given the criminal crap he and his bishop were up to at the time serving the bidding of Bernard Cardinal Law.
The whole Robot Rights movement
Ann Althouse weighs in on the whole Robot Rights Movement that Insty and Drudge linked to the other day. Here's what Ann wrote:
In any case, isn't it bad for your soul to mistreat something that you see as human-like? For example, if you are in a lucid dream interacting with people whom you realize do not exist, do you think you can do things to them that you would not do to a real person? And what do you think of the child who tortures her doll?
The question for me raised here is what about computer games, particularly The Sims? Do you owe anything to the characters?
It would be funny to see a mass Habeus petition on behalf of the denizens of the Sims universe claiming EA's systematic violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Yips! from Robbo: And what rights do or should non-combatants have in Age of Empires? The game assumes Total War and I confess that I derive keen enjoyment from sending squads of archers to key positions to massacre enemy peasants as they come by, thereby severly weakening their economy. But shouldn't the U.N. weigh in and demand that the Geneva Convention be made applicable?
YIPS from Steve-O: Actually, I was thinking the same thing.
And on that note, I do believe we are LONG OVERDUE for the internet tete a tete LLama Age of Empires Civil War. We both have the high-speed wireless, there's really no excuse when you think of it.
Other than, like, we have jobs, wives, kids, and responsibilities and stuff.
Searing My Mental Retinas
Foolish of me to read this report confirming that Clinton's National Security Advisor, Sandy "Sticky Fingers" Berger, stole classified documents from the National Archives. Why? Because of quotes like this:
Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that National Archives employees spotted Berger bending down and fiddling with something white around his ankles.
Aaaaaah! It burns! It burns!!
UPDATE: Speaking of things, let's go to the ol' archives and tee up one of Steve-O's comic masterpieces:
If memory serves, Steve-O copped us our first Insta-lanche with this piece of inspired photoshoppery. I confess that owing to my own cultural deformities my first reaction was, "I don't get it." However, after Steve-O explained it to me using words of one syllable only, I was able to say, "Heh, indeed."
Sacrificing my printer ink cartridges to the greater good
Home with three of the kids today: Mr. Skinny is home from school with a hacking cough we need him to really kick before Christmas, and Mr. Small had a throw-up right after breakfast. So that leaves Miss Stubborn (age 4) and I as the healthy ones in search of distraction (did I mention the VCR is offically broken now?)
The Return of the Pink Snow Boots: A Christmas Miracle
Kelly of Kelly's Green--very good friend and boon book club companion of The Dear One--is about to decamp with family to the primeval forests of Hanover, NH. Yet she found time to knock out this powerful post (kind of like Dylan Thomas describing the death of his washing machine). What makes it the Gold Star LLamabutchers Link-of-the-day though is what she finishes up with: the story of The Return of the Pink Snow Boots. O. Henry, eat your heart out.
Fast Times at Curmudgeonry High...
Life in the Money Pit proceeds apace.
December 20, 2006
Definition of a slow nooz day
Actually, they kind of look like Bunny Ears to me.
Satanic bunny ears, but bunny ears nonetheless.
Plus, Robbo did some actual investigation on this sort of thing once and came up with a great example of little Satan ears on Hillary once.
That's My Church!
The ENS is running with a story about the plucky loyalists of St. Stephens, Heathsville, Virginia, who do not wish to secede along with the rest of their congregation.
Of course, the plight of those members of secessionist congregations who voted not to go is as tough and troubled as that of the people who voted to go. What I find interesting about the article, however, is the talking points being played up: bullying and deceiving rebel clergy, confused and disoriented parishioners and dubious or improper voting procedures. From this and from what I've seen in my own contact with the o-fficial Church (as I noted yesterday), it seems pretty clear there's a deliberate policy at work to villify or marginalize those who have broken away (or who may be thinking about it), thereby delegitimizing their position. That is perhaps the worst part about the entire business.
Okay, Devious Jefferts-Schori, don't move!
It's the best damn Christmas book list ever over at Patem Peperium. Go on over and browse among the literary recommendations of fourteen of Algore's World Wide Web's finest and most sophisticated denizens (as well as Self):
Following the canny example of Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia—who, if you remember, signed up a high-profile female pen-pusher to contribute to her magazine Milady’s Boudoir in order to make the old sheet more attractive to a prospective buyer—the Peperiums have signed up DC policy wonks, American Spectator contributors, NRO contributors, Weekly Standard contributors, Crisis contributors, high-powered New York editors, high-powered New York lawyers, Justice Department lawyers, high-powered Academic eggheads, well-dressed Mid Western ex-Harrier pilots, regular readers, complete nobodys posing as somebodys (us), and a Catholic priest…all in order to give folks the impression that Patum Peperium is what Bertie might call, “the goods”.
The goods? It's the eel's eyebrows!
Well done, Mr. & Mrs. P!
Merry Christmas from the Big Heat
Chai-Rista's hubby Pep (aka "The Big Heat") sends along this little pic by way of his Kwanzmas card. Something about it makes me think that Robert Putnam may have been off by an order of magnitude.
"Yay for Bodily Functions!"
December 19, 2006
Happy Birthday Professor Chaos!
He's celebrating in style.
To get Robbo in the Christmas spirit
I haven't had a chance to get the garish template skin up yet (it's coming! I promise!) But in the meantime, here's something to get the eggnog really flowing--dare I say COURSING!--through the ol' veins: the greatest Christmas special of all time, Huh-Huh-Humbug.
Best line: In life I was your partner. Now I'm just some dead guy with cool chains. Later dude.
And here's something to wash it down with: the Mr. Garrison Christmas song.
Gratuitous Pre-Christmas Break Trouble-Making
My experience has been that the week before Christmas, work is either a frantic scramble to meet deadlines or else a gentle slide into inertia.
It's to the latter group that I address this question: So how's your hamsterpaulting coming along?
Heh, heh, heh.
Gratutious Domestic Posting (TM)
So the Missus has taken the Llama-ettes down to Great Wolf Lodge for a couple nights followed by a quick stop at Fort LMC, leaving Self to bachelor it until Friday afternoon.
I ask you - who gets the real vacation here?
I'm already lining up plans for some yummy broiled lamb chops this evening together with a bot. of Beaujolais, followed by Disk 3 of the first season of Arrested Development.
I'd be lying if I said I could get used to this - I usually start going spare after about 48 hours without the family and can't wait for them to return - but the first part of the break is nice.
An altogether shorter version of The Lord of the Rings.
I especially like it because I always had a soft spot for poor old Radagast, the bottle-washer of the White Council and all-around ninny whom Saruman despised and even Gandalf couldn't help patronizing. Serves 'em both right.
Yips! to Mixolydian Don.
I'll Drink To That
Interesting little article out of Reuterville about alchohol and head injuries which illustrates a belief I've held for years:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Alcohol is to blame in many accidents that cause major head injuries, but it also might help people survive after they get hurt, researchers said on Monday. Researchers examined data on 1,158 patients treated at a Toronto hospital for severe brain injury due to blunt trauma from 1988 and 2003.
Those with blood-alcohol levels up to 0.23 percent -- nearly three times the common legal limit of 0.08 percent -- were 24 percent more likely to survive their injuries than patients entering the hospital with no alcohol in their bloodstream, the study found.
But patients with even higher alcohol levels in their blood were 73 percent more likely to die than those with none, the study also found.
In other words, while heavy boozing is bad, one should try to live one's life in
a general state of squiffiness. Works for me.
That's My Church!
Well, now. Quite the vestry meeting we had last evening.
As I talked about yesterday, our chief topic of discussion was the secession of several Churches within the Diocese of Virginia and the reaction of our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee. A new development yesterday was the establishment of a Property Commission by the Bishop, the task of which is to handle the issues surrounding the disposition of real and personal Church property held by each of the departing Churches. One of our parishioners was appointed as a member of this Commission, so he came along last evening to give his thoughts on things.
I more or less expected the usual party line:
-- The scope of the split is no big deal
-- The secessionist ringleaders' true motives are less than worthy
-- The Press likes to sensationalize these things, so of course they get the story wrong.
-- The Bishop has bent over backwards to try and accomodate these people, but even in the face of his efforts, theyr'e still walking away
-- Despite the headlines, we're all still One Big Happy (Strong!) Church doing the Lord's good works.
But what I wasn't expecting was the viciousness with which these talking points were paraded. Usually, there is much head-shaking and tsk-tsking, accompanied by sorrowful laments about those who are troubled, challenged or confused in their journey and a call for those of us still on the right path to pray for them, for ourselves and for reconsiliation in Jesus' big ol' tent.
Not last night, though. No, instead the tone was positively brutal. Not only are the ringleaders a pack of tongue-swallowing reactionaries, besotted with delusions of grandeur and hell-bent on a political and economic coup, their followers are nothing but dupes and morons. Further, their project is doomed to failure. Currently, they are all united only in hate (an actual quote, btw); once the thing they hate is gone, they'll proceed to fracture and splinter even further. Indeed, the Rector was positively gloating over the eventual downfall of the Rector of Truro or, as he called him, "the new self-styled African Bishop of North America." Even the results of the secessionist parishes' voting was questioned, with dark hints tossed about concerning vote suppression and manipulation. As for the Diocese' handling of the property issue? Well, I think they're probably going to let the smaller fry go, largely because there isn't much property involved anyhow and also because the Church believes these groups will come back begging for re-admittance in a year or two anyway. But the big fish? It's hammer time. Truro and Falls Church have struck a very sore nerve and I don't see the Diocese compromising with them at all, at all.
So no doubt you're asking yourself Where Was Robbo?
Well, I sat through the presentations by the Rector and the Property Committee representative quietly stewing, while most of those around me appeared to swallow the Party Talking Points hook, line and sinker. Indeed, the thing became a regular pep rally. Go Church! Rah Rah! Rah! But then somebody proposed a vote of thanks by the vestry to the Bishop for all his hard work. Here was where I thought I had an opening.
"I'm very sorry," I said, "but I'm afraid I'll have to abstain from such a vote."
"Whaaaaaaa...????" said the meeting.
I knew that I had to couch things the right way, so I tried to pick my words of explanation carefully. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what I said, but the gist of it was this: that a great many things had happened of late, that there was a lot of information to digest and ponder and that I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of offering any endorsement until I had the opportunity to think things through. Warming to my work and figuring in for a penny, in for a pound, I also mentioned that perhaps it was just me, but personally I had felt both hurt and angered by the threatening tone of the Bishop's December 1 letter to the clergymen and vestries of the Diocese reminding them of the potential legal risks involved in challenging its authority. "Bullying," I called it. I also said that I was troubled by the reduction of all the secessionist motives to apparent cartoon villainy and hoped that we could evaluate them in a more charitable spirit. Finally, I said that I believed the trouble in the Diocese was part and parcel of the larger issues currently being debated within both the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion, that such issues were coming to a head, and that I believed it our duty as Church leaders to see to it that our congregations were educated about them in as fair and impartial a manner as possible.
I must say that the reception I got was better than I'd expected. While nobody embraced my entire package outright, several voiced their agreement with bits and pieces of it. Which is fine by me. All I wanted to do was to break up the cheerleader routine and get people to start thinking a bit. IMHO, the issues at stake are far too important for us to act as nothing but a rubber stamp to what comes down from On High.
Well, the Rector didn't want to send a message to the Bishop without the entire vestry's support, so the matter was dropped.
A small thing, I know, but nonetheless at least I took a stand. And I reckon I'm officially a marked man now. Any number of people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for speaking up, but if my body is found floating about in the Potomac, you'll know why. In the meanwhile, now that I've unmasked my batteries, so to speak, I suppose I'll have no choice but to keep it up.
I must say, this whole thing is quite nerve-wracking. I'm a litigator by trade, so argument is perfectly natural to me. But that's on a professional level. This sort of thing is much more like a really ugly family row, and even rearing up on my hind legs to debate such a small point quite drained me emotionally. I think a lot of people watching this little drama from the sidelines don't appreciate the anguish with which most of us caught up in it have to deal. Think of an extremely messy divorce and you'll get some idea. I went home and had nightmares all night about separation and disruption.
As I often say, we shall see what happens.
December 18, 2006
[Insert Homer Simpson Drooling Sound Here]
Yips! to Rachel, who rounds up other interesting facts about the year that almost was.
Bend It Like B16!
FWIW, I think this is a cool idea. Hey, Stalin! How many wing forwards have you got?
Thank You, Al Gore's Global Warming!
I'm working on a project today that involves shlepping back and forth between my office and another one a couple blocks away.
I could be doing this in a sleet storm. Instead, it's a bee-ootiful morning for a stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Demolishing the upside down penny
The movement is building to demolish Boston City Hall, one of the Clapton-awfulest butt-ugly buildings in America.
The toughest audience yet
I'm giving a presentation for Mr. Skinny's second grade class today on American Indian stuff. Fifty second graders for one hour---oh boy. Yesterday, we made a giant map of the United States out of paper bags, cut to look like a deer hide. I'm using yarn to show the different areas some of the major tribes lived, and have a whole bunch of props. I did a run-through with him last night, and the ever-supportive Dear One (TM) noted that maybe I'm wasting my talents with the zonked out college kids.
Judicial Appointments watch: The LLamabutchers explain Judicial Nominations in a highly charged partisan environment
There is an interesting article in the Post this morning on the backlog of appointments to the 4th Circuit, and whether---GASP---the balance of the Court might shift to the left.
And if you follow the 4th Circuit with any regularity, you know that for the 4th Circuit to shift to the left is for it to start to give some credence to the views of that young Maryland whippersnapper Roger Taney.
Lots of rueage in the article from conservative legal groups about the inattention of the Bush administration yadda yadda. But I think the lesson to be learned here is quite important:
Court Packing is a process, not an event.
Back to my grading bunker.
December 17, 2006
That's My Church!
Canon Kendall Harmon reports that Truro and the Falls Church have announced the overwhelming votes of their congregations today to secede from the Diocese of Ol' Virginny:
FAIRFAX and FALLS CHURCH, Va., Dec. 17 – The Falls Church and Truro Church reported today that both congregations voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with The Episcopal Church in the U.S. and join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, or CANA.
Of the 1,348 eligible voting members casting ballots at The Falls Church this past week, 1,228, or 90 percent, voted in favor of the first question, or “resolution,” on the ballot about whether to sever ties. On the second and final resolution, 1,279 of 1,350 eligible members, or 94 percent, voted in favor of retaining the church’s real and personal property.
Of the 1,095 eligible voting members casting ballots at Truro Church, 1,010, or 92 percent voted in favor of severing ties. On the second resolution, 1,034 of 1,095 eligible members, or 94 percent, voted in favor of retaining Truro’s real and personal property. Both churches used essentially identical ballots. The specific text of each resolution at The Falls Church follows at the end of this release.
Each of these churches conducted their votes as part of a congregational meeting. They followed steps recommended by a “protocol” for departing congregations unanimously recommended by a Special Committee of the Diocese of Virginia and supported by Bishop Peter Lee.
Of course, as noted here the other day, Bishop Lee is no longer supporting this "protocol," now that new
Sith Lord White Witch High Priestess Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has spread the order that all dissent within the Church is to be crushed instanter. Bishop Lee apparently is heeding that directive:
A Statement from the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia
Today a small number of congregations in the Diocese of Virginia announced that they have voted to separate from the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Church of Nigeria and Bishop Akinola. I am saddened by this development.
The leadership of the Diocese of Virginia has labored for three years to seek another course that would have maintained the integrity of the church and the spirit of inclusiveness that has been a hallmark of the Diocese and the Anglican Communion. The votes today have compromised these discussions and have created Nigerian congregations occupying Episcopal churches. This is not the future of the Episcopal Church envisioned by our forebears.
I have called a special joint meeting Monday of the Executive Board and Standing Committee of the Diocese, with counsel, to consider the full range of pastoral, canonical and legal obligations of the Church and our responsibilities to those faithful Episcopalians in these congregations who do not choose to associate with the Church of Nigeria.
In the interim I have asked the leadership of these now Nigerian and Ugandan congregations occupying Episcopal churches to keep the spiritual needs of all concerned uppermost in their minds at this difficult moment in our Church history, especially continuing Episcopalians. I also have directed diocesan personnel to work with the leadership of the departing congregations and with those who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church to reach agreements for the shared use of the Church property for the purposes of worship and other needs until final disposition of the Church's property can be settled.
I want to be clear on this point: Our polity maintains that all real and personal property is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese. As stewards of this historic trust, we fully intend to assert the Church's canonical and legal rights over these properties.
Today is indeed a sad day for the Church and for many in the Church. It is also a day of abundant hope that in our 400 years as Virginia's oldest Christian community, the Episcopal Church in Virginia will continue to serve Christ faithfully by serving his people.
Emphasis added. Go back and read this language in conjunction with the threatening letter Bishop Lee sent to the Churches prior to their vote. Translation: "I think it's time we demonstrated the full power of this station. Set your course for Alderan"
As I also mentioned the other day, I have a vestry meeting at my own Church tomorrow night. One of the topics of discussion will be this breach and the ECUSA's reaction to it. We have already received orders from our own Rector that any inquiry regarding a similar vote in our parish is to be squelched firmly.
Friends, I'm not much of an activist by temperment, but I've been stewing over how to approach this meeting all weekend. I'm frankly outraged that my Bishop is resorting to threats of personal legal liability for clergymen and vestry members of parishes that dare to question the party line. And I am deeply troubled by my own Rector's apparent desire to smother so much as a discussion of the troubles afflicting our Church and the various attempts by both dioceses and parishes (to say nothing of the global Anglican Communion) to deal with them, either through outright secession or else alternative oversight. The simple truth of the matter is this: within the next few years, the Episcopal Church as currently organized and as situated within the Anglican Communion, will cease to exist. It may go off on its own or it may split into one or more splinters, each moving in the direction it sees fit.
If my congregation wants to nail its flag to the ECUSA mast and go where ever the PB sails her, all well and good. But it's not going to be because they don't even understand the issues involved. We're a Low Church congregation, and the old 'Palie stereotype holds true for us (High -crazy, Middle- hazy, Low- lazy). And it's true: on any given Sunday, the kinds of questions raised in our adult fora indicate that many, many parishioners simply don't know much about the Church other than the general Sunday routine and an outline of the Nicene Creed.
Ordinarily, I'd let this slide. But, pursuant to the Chinese curse, we don't live in ordinary times, but instead in very interesting ones. The Church has reached the point where each and every Episcopalian has to know exactly what is going on, in order to make for him- or herself a fully informed decision about where he or she is going to go. "Eyes front, mind your own business and do what you're told," is not, I think, the tone the Rector ought to be taking. And I also don't think the parish should be relying on the Official Party Line as served up by the Rector as its sole source of news and opinion.
So. At tomorrow night's meeting, I am going to propose that a committee be set up, the purpose being to gather and collate news and opinion pertinent to the Church's ongoing controversies and to find means by which to disseminate such news to members of the congregation. I'm going to insist that such committee be independant of the Rector's oversight or control and that its membership be politically and theologically balanced.
I am also going to get shot down in flames, of course. But I'm beginning to get angry enough that I don't really care. If I can't get official sanction for such a project, then I'll do it off my own bat. And if I get threatened with personal liability as a vestryman for spreading alarum and confusion, I'll quit and carry on as a private parishioner.
The Rector mentioned in an email to me the other day that he wanted to make sure my energies as a vestry member were being directed to areas for which I felt a passion. Well, dammit, I think I've found just the ticket.
Wish me luck.
After nearly ten years of continuous occupation, the crib is coming down this afternoon.
Mr. Small won't turn two until the end of January, but he's been blessed with what we like to refer to as "Monkey Toes"---the tyke can scale the side of the crib with an alacrity that would make a cat burglar proud.
With that, my usefulness for the family officially ends. Next stop, glue factory.
Fishy, Fishy, Fish
Not only is it beautifully illustrated by Joseph R. Tomelleri, each month also provides background, trivia and range on the particular type of trout represented, as well as a list of insect hatches for that month in case you have the urge to cast a fly.
I haven't been fly-fishing since before the Llama-ettes started coming along. The last couple years, it was Atlantic Salmon in Canada, but before that we used to go to Katmai Park in Alaska after Rainbow, Dolly Varden and Arctic Grayling. For some time now, I've been toying with the idea of exploring the possibilities closer to home: there are quite a few trout streams in the Blue Ridge . Indeed, I seem to recall reading a few years back about fly-fishing right around Dee Cee - the C&O Canal and Rock Creek, if memory serves.
Who knows? Perhaps glancing at this calendar every day will actually get me to go do it.
Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM)
An early Christmas present of new clock-radio-CD players was handed to the Llama-ettes by their grandparents yesterday. Self having duly plugged them in and programmed them, the gels are now all ensconced in their rooms listening to their favorite CDs.
From our conversation as I was setting hers up, I learned that the four year old is laboring under the misapprehension that Johann Strauss, Jr., composed a famous waltz known as "The Blue Damn You."
From the standpoint of both a parent and a music lover, I didn't feel any special need to correct her on this.
December 16, 2006
Yuletide At Orgle Manor
Steve-O challenges, I deliver:
It's taken me a solid couple hours and absolutely all of my meager technical know-how to manage to get this pic up, but I've finally cracked it. More later, by way of practice.......
UPDATE: Like it? A couple more below the fold...
Our minimalist front hall nod to the holiday.....
Here's General Nutcracker guarding the library.....
And, since it's still the season, the Advent wreath fashioned by the Llama-ettes...
All in all, fairly sparse celebratory decore this year but, well, it's been that kind of year.
Yuletide at Stately LLama Manor...
By popular demand, here's the Christmas Tree at Stately LLama Manor. The ball is now in the court for those layabouts at Orgle Manor to post away...
The tree is straight, skewing off a bit to the left at the very top. The angel on top goes up on Christmas Eve.
Gratuitous Musickal Posting (TM) - We Wants It! Division
Trevor Pinnock, one of my very favorite Baroque conductors and whose birthday it happens to be today, has a guide for purchasing a harpsichord. Part One is a survey of the various historical types. Part Two is a discourse on what to look for when choosing one:
Unless you will be performing frequent solo recitals or must play the Goldberg Variations, a single manual harpsichord will be suitable. Italian and Flemish models are frequently promoted by builders, many which are assembled from kits, though many Italians instruments made have a dry and hard sound. An instrument of this type is well suited for much of the literature and is ideal for continuo playing. Unless you will be playing a fair amount of Scarlatti, stick to an instrument with a small compass with a short octave or broken octave in the bass.
Flemish instruments are very adaptable to a variety of harpsichord music. A copy of a Ruckers with 8+4, 2x8 or 2x8+4 would be both an excellent ensemble as well as solo instrument. Copies of 18th century single manual harpsichords are also available based on designs of Dulcken and Kirckman.
For two manual harpsichords, a Flemish/French traditional design after Blanchet would be a suitable choice for music of the first half of the 18th century. Copies of mid 18th century Flemish harpsichords after Dulcken are better suited to Bach than to French music. Interest is gaining in 17th and early 18th century instruments while moving away from decedent, overbearing French instruments. Seventeenth century French and 18th century German have been neglected and it is hoped that makers take further interest in these.
[Insert sound of slavering here.] It is one of my long term goals - after I win the lottery or knock off the Missus for the insurance money - to someday have a harpsichord of my own.
December 15, 2006
Why Isn't Anybody Measuring The Waistline of Nanny State?
UK Public Enemy No. 1
The British Fat Police gear up for a Waco-style assault on
Clothes made in larger sizes should carry a tag with an obesity helpline number, health specialists have suggested. Sweets and snacks should not be permitted near checkouts, new roads should not be built unless they include cycle lanes and food likely to make people fat should be taxed, they say in a checklist of what we might “reasonably do” to deal with obesity.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the team says that “pull yourself together, eat less and exercise more” is an inadequate response to obesity, voiced only by “less perceptive health professionals” and the media. What fat people need is help, advice and sympathy to overcome their addiction to food, says the group of public health professional, which includes Sir George Alberti, the Government’s national director for emergency care.
I love how the whole concept of personal responsibility here is dismissed as the blathering of people who "don't get it." And somebody explain to me how "pull yourself together, eat less and excercise more" does not qualify as "help, advice and sympathy." Certainly sounds like it to me. On the other hand, it strikes me that the actual steps proposed by the "team" are better characterized as "serious infringements of personal liberties."
What's next? A Fat-Detector van that goes about weighing people and performing on-the-spot liposuction on anybody caught above their approved pants size? Pound of flesh, indeed.
Yips! to Rachel.
"Nice Parish You Got There, Rector. Be A Shame If Something Happened To It."
The Right Rev. Peter Lee, Bishop of Virginia, delivers a not-so-subtle threat to breakaway parishes:
Consequences of Departure
The decision of a congregation to leave the Episcopal Church places its clergy in a difficult position. Clergy who are affiliated with such a congregation risk a finding by the Standing Committee that they have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church. If the Bishop agrees with that finding, he may inhibit the cleric from officiating in any Episcopal Church, and if the cleric does not recant within six months, the cleric may be released from the obligations of ministry and removed therefrom. The cleric would thereafter be ineligible to earn further credited service towards a pension from the Church Pension Fund and the employing church could not pay pension assessments. (The cleric would be credited for service prior to his removal and upon reaching retirement age, would receive a pension calculated on his credited service in the Episcopal Church.)
The cleric, and lay employees of the parish, would no longer participate in the diocesan health insurance plan and the departing parish could not participate in property and casualty insurance plans sponsored by the affiliates of the Church Pension Fund.
Potential Personal Liability
I am bound, just as you and your vestry members are, to adhere to and to enforce the Church’s canon law. My obligation to uphold the canon law derives from the oath I took when I was ordained and consecrated Bishop. Your obligation, which continues even now, derives from the promises and commitments you made. In the case of the Rector, those promises were made at his ordination and at his installation as your Rector by one of the Bishops of Virginia.
The principles reflected in the Church’s canon law as it relates to parish property have been enforced by many courts throughout the United States in cases involving hierarchical churches such as the Episcopal Church. Those cases include cases decided by Virginia courts.
A recent enforcement occurred in a case brought in a Pennsylvania court by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and its Bishop against a parish vestry that had caused the parish to leave the Church and deny the Diocese its beneficial use of the parish property. The Pennsylvania court recognized the fiduciary duty of the vestry to maintain the property in trust for the benefit of the Diocese and ruled that the vestry, in refusing to maintain the property for that purpose, had acted with "bad faith and breached fiduciary duties." Members of the vestry were held individually liable for the expenses the Diocese and the Bishop incurred in the litigation. The Pennsylvania court’s application of the law of trusts and fiduciaries was consistent with what a Virginia court would do if faced with a similar case. Under Virginia law, a trustee of a tax exempt organization such as a church is civilly liable for willful misconduct.
The letter was actually released a few weeks ago in conjunction with the secessionist votes in several parishes such as Falls Church and Truro. I mention it now because I just got an email from my own rector to the effect that any such talk among our own little flock is strictly verboten.
UPDATE: A reader passes along a post from Tom's Thoughts that has more details on the Falls Church/Truro departure, including some insight on why Bishop Lee, who for years has wanted this whole business to go away quietly, is suddenly playing the heavy.
Gratuitous Byzantine Posting
The Ravenna Mosaic. Belisarius is standing to the left of the Emperor Justinian.
I see where today is the anniversary of the Battle of Ticameron near Carthage in 533 AD, in which the great Byzantine general Belisarius effectively ended the Vandal kingdom in North Africa and returned the African provinces to Constantinople's control. Later, Belisarius would reconquer Italy from the Goths, the triumph of which is celebrated by the above mosaic. Indeed, some people argue that Justinian was the last "Roman" Emperor instead of Romulus Augustulus, who was deposed by the Goths in 476 AD. (Unfortunately, Byzantine mismanagement kept the reconquest from lasting very long.)
An entertaining and informative book about the period is this one:
Count Belisarius by Robert Graves. Although a fictionalized biography of Belisarius, it nonetheless provides a faithful account of his great military achievements and of the political and religious in-fighting around the court of Justinian which climaxed with Justinian's alleged blinding and beggaring of Belisarius, captured by Jacques-Louis David in one of his more famous paintings:
(FWIW, I believe scholars now believe this episode to be apocryphal.)
Deck The Halls Watch
Sleepy Beth has pics up of her holiday decore, complete with inflatible Nativity!
It just so happens that the new digital camera we bought ourselves for Christmas this year turned up yesterday. I plan to settle down and play with it this weekend while the in-laws are taking the Llama-ettes out and spoiling them rotten. If you ask very nicely, perhaps I'll try and figure out how to post a pic or two of the Orgle Manor Tree.
Yes, the in-laws arrive today for a two night stop on their way down to "Flahrduh," complete with a pair of miniature poodles they recently acquired. They're not actually staying at the house but they don't want to leave the dogs at the hotel, so apparently they're going to bring them along when they come a'visiting. To borrow the George Lucas catch-phrase, "I got a baaaad feeling about this."
I gather that the plan is for them to take the Llama-ettes out wherever they'd like to go tomorrow. The talk of the breakfast table this morning was a trip to Jeepers, although I toyed with the malicious idea of suggesting Chuck-E-Fargin'-Cheese instead. (As a matter of fact, it's all really moot to me since I refuse point-blank to set foot in either place, regardless of who else might be in the party or what diplomatic issues my absence creates.)
I dunno if anybody has figured out what to do about the dogs yet, whether one of the Missus' family will stay or else whether I'll get saddled with watching them. If they were any other kind of dog, I'd cheerfully volunteer to spend the afternoon playing with them. However, my attitude to yappy little animals of this sort is very similar to Miss Murdstone's toward young David Copperfield:
"Generally speakin', I don't like boys. How d'you do, boy?"
We shall see what happens.
Peggy Noonan asks the questions about Barack Obama that have been flitting around the back of my mind as well:
He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors.
What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost--almost--two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama's rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.
He's exactly right. Just so we all know it's projection.
He doesn't have an issue, he has a thousand issues, which is the same as having none, in the sense that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. And on those issues he seems not so much to be guided by philosophy as by impulses, sentiments. From "The Audacity of Hope," his latest book: "[O]ur democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect." "I value good manners." When not attempting to elevate the bromidic to the profound, he lapses into the language of political consultants--"our message," "wedge issues," "moral language." Ronald Reagan had "a durable narrative." Parts of the book, the best parts, are warm, anecdotal, human. But much of it pretends to a seriousness that is not borne out. When speaking of the political past he presents false balance and faux fairness. (Reagan, again, despite his "John Wayne, Father Knows Best pose, his policy by anecdote and his gratuitous assaults on the poor" had an "appeal" Sen. Obama "understood." Ronnie would be so pleased.)
Our friends across the aisle and much of the MSM have been drooling over this guy recently the way teenaged boys used to drool over Farrah Fawcett posters when I was young. So far, the appeal seems to be about as deep. I can only hope, assuming he does run in '08, that people don't, erm, use the wrong organ in deciding to vote for him (if you know what I mean and I think you do).***
On the other hand, anything that scares the bejaysus out of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham can't be all bad, right?
(UPDATE: *** Who else out there used to watch Talk Soup (from which I borrow this line)? One of the funnier programs back in the day, although it never quite made the leap when John Henson left and Hal Sparks took over.)
December 14, 2006
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Dammit - Part Deux
JohnL tags me with this Christmas meme. If my answers seem a bit Scrooge-like, it's because I've got to shlep off to my office holiday party and I'm not much looking forward to it:
1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? I don't really like either one but think I'd go with the chocolate.
YIPS from Steve-O: Hot chocolate with whip cream on top.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He wraps. And with paper different from that used by Mom & Dad. We're color-coded at Orgle Manor.
YIPS from Steve-O: Wraps, of course, with labor provided by legally documented legal alien elves under the supervision of the AFL-CIO.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White on the tree, none on the house.
YIPS from Steve-O: Major bone of contention at Stately LLama Manor. What would Thurgood Marshall want, right? Alas, I lost that struggle, and the tree is segregated---white lights only. The live Christmas Tree that we planted in the backyard (that the kids named Stella Luna) however, has about 12 giant strings of colorful lights on them. It's nice, as Stella is on top of a little hill in the backyard, and the neighbors on all sides generally don't have any backyard holiday lights, so Stella really stands out. The Purple Playhouse in the backyard is done up Snoopy's Dog House style, with colorful lights criss-crossing the roof, and the icicle lines at the edges. If it were up to me, our house would be visible from the International Space Station, but long time readers, let alone real-life friends of The Dear One know quite well that it aint up to me...
4. Do you hang mistletoe? It grew wild in a mesquite tree in our yard in Texas when I was a boy, so we always culled some. Since coming East, I can't recollect that we've ever used it.
YIPS from Steve-O: Generally not.
5. When do you put your decorations up? The tree went up this past weekend, while various festive knick-knacks have been appearing for the last two weeks. I still haven't got round to putting the wreaths on the front door or the creche in the living room, but no doubt will do so this weekend. Everything comes down on Twelfth Night.
YIPS from Steve-O: Some stuff creeps out the weekend after Thanksgiving. The real sign of the season is when the Wretched Singing Santa doll comes out--ay carumba, the thing is enough to make you want to become a Scientologist. I actually have a video of Mr. Small dancing in front of the durn thing that I might have to post up just to make my point. The Tree usually goes up the second weekend of Advent, not for any points of theology but more because that's after classes have ended for me and it's easier for the family's schedule. The stockings only come out on Christmas Eve. The Dear One is in the process of needlepointing stockings for the kids. Lil' Miss Somersault's one was finished two years ago, and won the big honkin' blue ribbon for best in show in home arts at the County Fair. (I kid you not). She just finished Mr. Skinny's right before Thanksgiving, and it should be back from the Needle Lady any day now. Each one has taken about 2 yrs. to do, so Miss Stubborn's is projected for when she's 6. Oh, and the tree by tradition isn't taken down until the NFC Championship game, although one year it was the Super Bowl.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? The Old Reliable: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with two veg.
YIPS from Steve-O: Cookies. This year I'm pushing for us to have duck as the main course, so we'll see.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Going duck hunting with my dad on the Texas gulf coast the weekend after school was let out.
YIPS from Steve-O: Duck hunting? During wabbit season? Blasphemy!
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I honestly don't remember, but my own eight year old has disavowed her belief while the six year old remains credible, so it was probably around that same time for me.
YIPS from Steve-O: Truth about Santa? I don't follow...
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Nope. But we put the gels' stockings where they can get at them easily on Christmas morning in the (often vain) hope of getting a bit more sleep as a result.
YIPS from Steve-O: Blasphemous tradition introduced by the French, no doubt.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? White lights; lots of simple glass balls in various colors; a great many birds, trumpets and the like handed down from our parents' trees of old; silver stars to mark various births; mementos of places we've lived and/or visited; and (for now) the various paper and popsicle-stick doodads brought home from school by the gels. Non-breakables generally haunt the lower slopes while the more delicate goes higher up.
YIPS from Steve-O: Similar strategy. We have a set of Burgundy and gold balls (dubbed the jingle bells by Miss Somersault) that started off as a Redskins joke when we were married but have become sacred tradition. We also have a ton of the White House Historical Society's Christmas ornaments, as well as a few of the Supreme Court Historical Society's ones. Nothing quite says separation of church and state quite like the Supreme Court Historical Society Christmas ornaments, if you ask me. We also have a lot from Williamsburg and Monticello, so if you're looking for a Christmas Tree which has a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a model of Jefferson's house, and Washington crossing the Delaware, you've found it at Stately LLama Manor. Oh, and Oscar the Grouch popping out of a trash can.
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Are you kidding? This is Dee Cee! Run awaaaaaaaaay!!!!
YIPS from Steve-O: Jingle jingle, baby.
12. Can you ice skate? About as well as I can roller skate, which is to say not very.
YIPS from Steve-O: Of course. And I can off-puck check in a manner that would make Kevin McHale blush.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I honestly cannot.
YIPS from Steve-O: Growing up? A Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll from the Sears Catalog when I would have been around 8.
14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Not getting shanghied into ushering one of the Christmas Eve services at church.
YIPS from Steve-O: Lessons and Carols with the whole family, for reasons I'll detail in a later post.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Sod dessert - I'll go straight for the port and Stilton.
YIPS from Steve-O: Pie.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Well, I've got lots, of course, some big and some little. One of the littlest but most pleasurable (and yes, it sounds silly) is that I love to gather up all the wrapping paper torn off the presents and burn it in the fireplace. Don't ask why. I just enjoy it.
YIPS from Steve-O: I'm with Robbo on this, but the silliest one has to be wearing the ribbons around my neck. Don't know why, or how it started. That and some years we wear silly hats while opening presents.
17. What tops your tree? The tree top has always been something of an issue for us. We started with a tin star that I picked up in some artisan shop in Lexington, VA. Then we moved on to the old white dove that had always capped my parents' tree, but after a few years it just got too ratty. Then we tried a sort of paper angel thingy. Nowadays, we have a big silver star surrounded by some kind of wire cage. I'm still not especially happy with it, but it'll do for the moment.
YIPS from Steve-O:An angel made by The Dear One's best friend from college, which is really neat.
18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I'm at that comfortable state of really not expecting anything for myself. So long as the Missus and the Llama-ettes are happy, I'm happy.
YIPS from Steve-O: Insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here Shut up, Beavis! Perfectly honest, I like shopping and giving the gifts. That's more fun to me.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Again, there are lots. Like JohnL, I love O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And I regularly get chills from the chorus "For Unto Us A Child Is Born" from The Messiah.
YIPS from Steve-O: In the traditional/classical vein, #1 is Adeste Fideles. I downloaded from itunes the Bing Crosby version, which we had at home growing up. Automatic waterworks for me. Other traditional show stoppers for me are Once in Royal David's City (the a capella solo at the beginning just always knocks me on my butt, and it's the hymn they traditionally start Lessons and Carols with at my church), as well as the aforementioned O Come O Come Emanuel, although growing up we always had a breather beat in the first line between Emanuel and Ransom. Like the pacing of the song better that way. Modern stuff----the Vince Giraldi Charlie Brown album is on heavy rotation, as is Wyndam Hill stuff. And go ahead and shoot me, beat me, make me write bad checks, but I really like the old Amy Grant Christmas Album. Let the mockery commence.
20. Candy canes: Feh.
YIPS from Steve-O: Humbug.
21. Favorite Christmas movie? Don't really have one.
YIPS from Steve-O: Dude? It's a Wonderful Life works on me. Every. Flippin'. Time. The Dear One is a big fan of The Family Man. And of course A Christmas Story is iconic.
22. What do you leave for Santa? "Santa" always gets himself a nice, big glass of Laphroaigh. Sometimes two, if he's had a lot of work to do.
YIPS from Steve-O: One year the kids wanted to leave out some Hot Pockets, and they don't know how close they were to getting that king-sized bag of Kingsford.
Tag, you're it.
Gratuitous Mr. Wu Posting
A reprint of Joan Dideon's 1962 National Review piece on Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honor trilogy. A sample:
Every real American story begins in innocence and never stops mourning the loss of it: the banishment from Eden is our one great tale, lovingly told and retold, adapted, disguised and told again, passed down from Hester Prynne to Temple Drake, from Natty Bumppo to Holden Caulfield; it is the single stunning fact in our literature, in our folklore, in our history, and in the lyrics of our popular songs. Because hardness of mind is antithetical to innocence, it is not only alien to us but generally misapprehended. What we take it for, warily, is something we sometimes call cynicism, sometimes call wit, sometimes (if we are given to this kind of analysis) disapprove as “a cheap effect,” and almost invariably hold at arm’s length, the way Eve should have held that snake.
It is precisely this hardness of mind which creates a gulf between Evelyn Waugh and most American readers. There is a fine edge on, and a perfect balance to, his every perception, and although he is scarcely what you could call unread in the United States, neither is he what you could call understood. When he is not being passed off as “anachronistic” or “reactionary” (an adjective employed by Gore Vidal and others to indicate their suspicion that Waugh harbors certain lingering sympathies with the central tenets of Western civilization), he is being feted as a kind of trans-Atlantic Peter DeVries, a devastating spoofer who will probably turn out really to be another pseudonym for Patrick Dennis.
The rest is here.
Pimp My Elf With +5 Bling Points. Or Something. Yo, Yo.
Mother of Gawd, it's Nerd Rap:
There's some kind of don't-cross-the-streams-Venkman metaphor for the awfulness of the combination of ideas here, but I'm too stunned to come up with it.
And yes, I believe that is Bill rolling the dice.
Yips! to Mixolydian Don.
Gratuitous Royal Navy Geekery Posting (TM)
Happy Birthday to the Sea Wolf!
Today is the birthday of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, born this day in 1775.
Who he, you ask? Well, he was an extremely successful and daring British naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars and was the model for Patrick O'Brian's Lucky Jack Aubrey. Indeed, the climactic battle of Master and Commander, in which Aubrey's little brig Sophie, with 14 guns and 54 men, takes on the much larger Spanish xebec-frigate Cacafuego, with 32 guns and 319 men, is based shot for shot on Cochrane's own exploit aboard the Speedy on May 6, 1801, in which he successfully carried the Spanish El Gamo. (For those of you Russell Crowe fans who are scratching your heads and muttering, "Huh?" I would simply recommend that you read the damn book.)
Here is a painting of the action:
This isn't to say that O'Brian's Aubrey is a carbon-copy of Cochrane. For one thing, the only other time their careers duplicate each other in detail comes in the section of O'Brian's cycle beginning with The Reverse of the Medal, in which Aubrey is framed and convicted of stock fraud, stripped of his rank, dismissed the service and pilloried, and even here neither the chronology nor the facts are exactly alike. (Of interest, O'Brian hints in his introduction that there may have been more to the charges against Cochrane than he or his family would care to admit.) Aubrey's later adventures off the coast of Chile are a much more diluted reference to Cochrane's service as commander of the Chilean Revolutionary Navy. And, of course, O'Brian never puts Aubrey near the Battle of the Basque Roads, one of Cochrane's most famous exploits.
For another thing, Cochrane had an enormous ego and loved the spotlight. He also apparently enjoyed (or at least didn't mind) making political enemies, doing so mostly via his outspokeness against what he perceived to be incompetence and corruption. These character traits are quite a bit contrary to Jack Aubrey's modesty and his habit of running afoul other people's hawses inadvertantly.
Cochrane wrote an autobiography that I've always found to be interesting both in terms of its reflection of the man himself (for one thing, he was an early advocate of chemical warfare) and its obvious status as source material for O'Brian:
The Autobiography of a Seaman, by Admiral Lord Cochrane.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Cochrane spent a fair bit of time free-lancing with the Chilean, Brazilian and Greek navies in various revolutionary causes. Later, he was reinstated to the Royal Navy and made C-in-C of the North American station. As he lived to be 85 and died in 1860, he even exerted some influence in the Crimean War. I'm curious as to how many more of Cochrane's exploits O'Brian might have borrowed on behalf of Jack Aubrey had he continued the series further.
UPDATE: Non-Self-Plagiarism Disclaimer. If this post seems familiar, yes, I wrote it last year and just reposted it today.
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Dammit
I fear the Christmas Excitement Bug has bitten the Llama-ettes good and hard.
First, I was awakened at four o'clock this morning by the sound of the eight year old giving a dramatic reading of Calvin & Hobbes. Then, just when I'd convinced her to lower the pitch of her delivery to a dull roar, the six year old got up and apparently started running laps in her room.
Of course, once up neither one of them went back to bed, thereby banishing my last two precious hours of sleep. And to cap it all off, they got into a furious shouting match over who had to clean up what in the playroom, repeatedly coming to me to inform on each other while I was trying to get dressed.
Daddy is not at his most genial went jerked from the dreamless and then subjected to squabbling. After about the third or fourth tale of woe, I stormed off to the basement and informed the gels in so many words that if they expected to ever live to see Christmas morning, they'd better get hold of themselves right now.
For once, my wrath seemed to have made an impression on them but I doubt how long it will hold. Say till about four o'clock tomorrow morning?
Bah humbug, indeed.
Two thoughts on the Tim Johnson situation
!. I earnestly and sincerely hope the guy gets better and is healthy, so the Party can thoroughly kick his ass in the '08 election, fair and square. What, was it a 530 vote margin that he won by in '02?
2. How long before the Kos Kids and DUmbasses start spinning "Rove poisoned him because Chimpy McHitler is worse than Putin" stories?
I mean, how long before their stories go mainstream?
I'm guessing if he gets worse later this afternoon the story goes "mainstream" tonight on Olberman.
And by mainstream, I mean the 200 idiots who watch that crap instead of My Name is Earl on Thursdays.
UPDATE: Well, THAT didn't take long.
Life in the Money Pit
Phew, that's a relief---Jordana's HVAC overhaul on the money pit is only going to be five times over budget, not seven.
But that's what happens when you use those soon-to-be-unemployed ex-Congressmen to do your home inspection...
December 13, 2006
Sweet'n'Sour Play Of The Week: Philip Rivers of the Chargers play faked a run, and then threw a pass for a touchdown. The play-fake was sweet. The fact that the defense was comprised mainly of men who did not graduate from their respective colleges, and therefore do not understand the nuances of the play fake as TMQ does, was sour.
80% Of This Column Was Written Using Autotext! DirecTV has a monopoly! There is "dark matter" in the universe! CEO's who fly private planes are fucking assholes! Coaches only make decisions that will make them look good! No one touched the running back on that run! He shouldn't get any credit! My son Spenser is very advanced and will ruin the curve for your unintelligent child!
If you're a Greggggggg regular, go on over and read the rest, including an hysterical Cheerleader of the Week riff that I'm not going to reprint on a family blog.
Yips! to Jonathan Last over at Galley Slaves, who suspects a mole.
Going To The Dogs
Frankly, it's pretty lame this year. But I'm awfully partial to Scotties, so just watching them go tickity-tickity-tickity across the marble floors is fun for me.
Oh, and the snippet with Sith-Master Rove is okay.
R.I.P Peter Boyle
Dead at 71.
Here's his classic dance number with Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein, one of my favorites, ripped off straight from J-Pod:
How to differentiate between "Francophiles" and the mentall ill
You can, yet, the reason would be.......?
Even though we are The LLamabutchers, we stand opposed to the slaughter and ritual sacrifice of our camelid brethern everywhere
To quoth Dave Barry, now the bastards are sacrificing camels!
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
UPDATE: Basil Seal's tasteful Christmas guide is rolling out---follow along for tips for a very English Christmas (unfortunately, it doesn't include any Imperial ambitions involving pesky Zulus or Sikhs, or make any cracks as I would involving England's Santa's dentiture); Basil Seal's guide to tasteful Christmas Cards (which apparently was motivated by his distaste over my Joseph and Mary at the Crazy Achmed's Used Donkey Lot-themed card from last year); the Basil Seal guide to tastefully setting up the Creche (ie no figurines from South of The Border, or Playmobil Vikings, which rules out the creche at Stately LLama Manor); and last, but certainly not least, the Basil Seale Guide to Tasteful Use of the Holiday Music of Elvis Presley.
Elvis Presley's 'White' Christmas, eh? As if Elvis would have had any other type......
The Carrie Nation of the Fizzy Set
INDC Bill in drag and his vicious Christianist campaign to deprive honest sons of the working class their daily Jolt Cola. The Bastard!
When you can only get a bottle of Barq's from a crack house in a bad part of town, blame Bill.
I hate to say it, though, but Bill's push on this issue has had an effect on me. Rather than making me want to indulge, just to piss him off, it's had the opposite effect such that I rarely touch the stuff now. It was actually quite a while in the making: my Dad did the thing for us as kids of taking a tooth and disolving it in a glass of Coke. I would have been about 10 or 12, so it was right around the time they shifted the sugar composition, and memory serves that it only took a couple of days for it to completely work. But then again, it was my Dad, and I wouldn't put it past him to have helped the process along, partly out of a concern for our dental hygiene, mainly out of a desire to not pay for the stuff. By college I couldn't drink regular Coke anymore, as it was too strong, and would drink Diet Coke, and then Diet Pepsi. In grad school, I didn't drink coffee (I've never liked the taste or smell), but would drink Diet Pepsi pretty regularly. When I got married, I switched to Diet Dr. Pepper, as that was what the wife drank and I was too lazy to buy my own. But I went cold-turkey at New Years in 1996 because, well, it tasted like drinking fizzy crank-case oil of a Mexican 18 wheeler running Power Rangers to Walmarts across the greater Alberta region over the salty and sandy roads of winter. That, and it made me feel like crap when I didn't have one, and if there's one thing I can't stand it's being dependent on anything. So I went cold turkey, which sucked chrome to high heaven for about 3 weeks, but haven't touched the stuff since. Almost as bad as going off Paxil, but that's another story.
Now the Barq's Root Beer, I have on occasion, but I was a regular indulger until Bill began his anti-soda jeremiad last year. Now, only occasionally. And in the summer, the odd orange soda because, heck, it's summer. But otherwise, no soda.
So godspeed, you zealous little social reformer, but if you come for my unsweetened ice tea, I'll strangle your skinny neck real good. (said in my best "Deliverance" voice)
Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Stump The Chump Division
For Advent, the eldest Llama-ette and I have been reading the Gospels out of a children's illustrated Bible that made its way into the house. (The book was published in the early 60's and is wonderfully dated - as drawn, Jesus is a tall, blond, blue-eyed Viking and Mary looks like something out of Prince Valiant.)
Last evening we were talking about Jesus' temptations in the wilderness. This is a subject of keen interest to the Llama-ette. By whatever sequence of genetics, she has inherited the ornery streak known in my family as the "MacDill taint" after the clan from which one of my ancestors picked it up. This trait (which I'm happy to say I do not have) manifests itself in occasional outbursts of bullying, teasing and general cussed behavior. In order to help her cope with it, we've long told her that the urge she sometimes feels to be ugly comes from the devil. We explain that she does not, in fact, have to listen to his whisperings, but instead should be true to herself and remain good. For what it's worth and before you call the social services nazis down on us, this strategy has worked. In addition to being sound theology, it provides her with a very concrete set of images she can use to work through the problem - on more than one occasion the gel has said something like, "Daddy, the devil was sitting on my shoulder telling me to be bad, but I picked him up by the tail and threw him in the trash can."
Anyhoo, the illustration of Jesus' temptation comes complete with a horned and cloven-hooved devil (apparently fleeing from Beowulf) and the Llama-ette wanted to know more about him. Where did he come from? Was he always bad? Oh, no, I said. While we call him Satan now, in the beginning his name was Lucifer and he was the greatest angel in Heaven. "So what happened?" she asked. Well, I said, he got too ambitious and thought he could run Heaven better than God, so he tried to take over and God threw him into hell in punishment. He tries now to get his revenge by inflicting as much wickedness on God's world as he can.
Then the gel hit me with the theological stumper. "Well, if he wasn't bad to begin with and everything else God made was good, where did Satan's evil come from?"
I rapidly flipped through my mental notes on Milton, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis to try and find a suitable answer, but none of them were really any help - I couldn't remember enough Milton, Tolkien's story about Melkor/Morgoth pretty much mirrors that of Lucifer/Satan without going into any real detail and Lewis cheats by bringing Queen Jadis into Narnia from another, dead world about the origins of which we know nothing.
In the end I just said that the evil somehow started and grew inside the devil but that I frankly didn't know how or why. Nonetheless, the fact remains that it's with us in the world now and we all have a duty to fight it off as best we can.
What is the true origin of evil? Interesting question and one way beyond my humble theological depth.
UPDATE: Whoa, harmonic convergence alert! The Colossus is all over Evil this morning.
December 12, 2006
Extremely Efficient Pre-Christmas Musickal Posting (TM)
This coming Sunday we're doing lessons & carols at church. As I already know perfectly well what's coming, I thought I'd get my fuming out of the way early by reposting what I said last year:
As I mentioned earlier, yesterday was the lessons and carols service at church. For the occassion, we blew a fair chunk of our rayther meager music budget and brought in a string quartet. Alas, music in general is not one of my church's strong suits: the organist is pretty good, but the choir is rather weak and the lead soprano has a voice like Glinda the Good Witch of the North - high, nasal and with enough vibrato to make your fillings start to resonate. Nonetheless, when everyone was gathered together, it sounded quite nice.
The other thing about the music at my church is that you never quite know what you're going to get served. The organist himself is pretty hidebound and traditional and, left to his druthers, would probably play Bach all the time. However, the rector is well known for his fondness of 20th Century settings as well as his desire to bring in stuff from outside the Anglican tradition. I've heard rumors of a kind of Cold War between the two, a war that threatens to go hot every "Jazz Sunday" - the Sunday before Ash Wednesday - when the rector brings in a couple trumpets and a bass, sits down to the drums himself and lets fly. The organist typically looks as if he's playing his own funeral march on such days or, perhaps more accurately, wishing he was playing the rector's.
All these forces were in evidence yesterday. The service was bookended by Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso Opus 6, No. 8, one of my favorite pieces of chamber music. We also got helpings of Handel, including a game attempt by one of the choir members to sing "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion" in countertenor which produced a startled inquiry from the seven year old as to why that man was singing like a girl. In addition, we had some Palestrina, plus a number of traditional carols. So far, so good.
But I could see the rector's hand behind some of the other choices, including some pleasant but forgettable Vaughn Williams, some pleasant but cliched Bizet and some detestable Britten. I also knew as soon as I opened the program that we were in for......John Rutter.
Now, I'm sure Mr. Rutter is a very nice man and that he means well but the fact of the matter is that his music gives me the guts-ache. It's been variously described as "quirky" and "light" and "happy" and is, I suppose, designed to give listeners the warm fuzzies. In me, it induces a violent urge to reach for a two-by-four and start swinging.
Also, I don't know whose text Rutter uses, but the words are typically as cringe-making as the music:
Have you heard the story that they're telling 'bout Bethlehem, Have you heard the story of the Jesus child?
Isaac Watts it ain't.
The other sure sign of the rector's influence was the inclusion of "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Now personally, I don't hold much of an opinion about spirituals one way or the other, either from a religious or a musical standpoint. However, I will say this: such music being sung by a low church Episcopal congregation of upper middle class suburbanites, accompanied by pipe-organ, is an aesthetic absurdity, and I sincerely wish the rector would cut it out.
As I say, we've still got a few days to go until the actual service, but this sort of thing has been going on for years and I see no reason to believe it's going to be any different this time.
I'm proctoring exams, and I'm supposed to be grading, so of course I'm playing Robbo's stupid Snowball fight game. I can't get past being knocked out with three guys left on the field on level 4.
CURSES! DAMN YOU, ROBBO THE LLAMA! One more time...right....Level 5, score of 155.
ANOTHER AFTERNOON OF SUCESSFUL GRADING:
Level 7, the skirmish line.
Yips! from Robbo: The skirmish line is great fun and a prime illustration of the reason behind my advice to always start on your left flank and work your way to the right.
More Yips! from Robbo: Level 10 and a 1000 points!
Unlike the 24th at Isandlwana, I was able to hold off and crush the right horn of the water buffalo. Victory is mine!
Gratuitous Classical Posting
My quote of the day email guy sends along an entry today which I thought would grab the interest of you Latin geeks out there:
I am greatly enjoying Robert Fagles' accessible new translation of the Aeneid, from which these excerpts are drawn:
Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum:
mobilitate viget irisque adquirit eundo,
parva metu primo, mox sese attollit in auras
ingrediturque solo et caput inter nubila condit.
- Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil)
(Aeneis, IV, 173)
(Rumor, swiftest of all the evils in the world.
She thrives on speed, stronger for every stride,
slight with fear at first, soon soaring into the air
she treads the ground and hides her head in the clouds.)
Varium et mutabile semper femina.
- Ibid., 569
(Woman's a thing that's always changing, shifting like the wind.)
Facilis descensus Averno:*
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis:
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est.
- Ibid., VI, 126
(...the descent to the underworld is easy.
Night and day the gates of shadowy Death stand open wide,
but to retrace your steps, to climb back to the upper air -
there the struggle, there the labor lies.)
Nescia mens hominum fati sortisque futurae
et servare modum rebus sublata secundis!
- Ibid., X, 501
(How blind men's minds to their fate and to what the future holds,
how blind to limits when fortune lifts men high.)
(Born near today's Mantua, the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 B.C.) studied rhetoric,
history, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy in his youth. Because of the
proscriptions that followed the killing of Julius Caesar, he lost his estates in 42
B.C., but he returned to favor when his verse was discovered by the patrons
Maecenas and Pollio. Virgil spent the last decade if his life working on his epic
poem, the Aeneid, which traced the founding of Rome to a handful of survivors of the sack of Troy, led by the warrior Aeneas. Unfinished at Virgil’s death and intended by him to have been destroyed, the Aeneid was adopted by Augustus Caesar as the official "creation myth" of the Roman state and - preserved for posterity - established the subsequent fame of Virgil as one of the greatest of Roman authors. Book X is the source of perhaps Virgil's best-known line:
"Audentis Fortuna iuvat."
(Fortune speeds the bold.**) )
* N.B. The reference here is to Lake Averno, just north of modern-
day Naples, which was believed in ancient times to be one of the
entrances to the Underworld.
** Often translated, "Fortune favors the brave."
I've got the Fitzgerald translation myself, but this looks quite intriguing.
"We Shall Overcooooome!"
After years of anti-camelid prejudice, Llamas are finally going to the Rose Parade:
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Llamas have waited 15 years to appear in the Rose Parade. On New Year's Day, 18 of the animals and their owners will stroll down Colorado Boulevard.
Joan Selby, a member of the Llama Association of Southern California, sent the original application to the parade committee 15 years ago.
She is not sure why it took so long for parade officials to let the llamas into the parade but suggested it might have been fear of the unknown.
"It could be that it just was not our time. Back then, llamas weren't very well known,'' Selby said.
Paul Holman, president and chairman of the board of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, said he has been told llamas had not been allowed in the parade because horses fear them and react as if the llamas were predators.
But he did his research and found a solution. The llamas will be staged in a separate area and have a spot toward the beginning of the parade, far from the equestrian units, Holman said.
Stupid horses and their ignorant stereotyping. How hurtful. And we're still being relegated to "llamas only" sections. I demand reparations!
Yips! to loyal reader RBJ and several others.
Gratuitous Flashman Posting
One of the great pleasures of reading George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series is the tremendous amount of history one picks up, both in Flashy's narratives themselves and in the footnotes that accompany each tale. Indeed, on several occasions I've dashed out and bought the source material referenced by Fraser, mostly because I was interested in the subject matter but also because I was curious to see how faithful Fraser was to the historical record. My experience to date is that he is very faithful to it, indeed more so than many historians in that Fraser goes out of his way to try and take history on its own terms, not overlaying it with fadish revisionism.
My most recent acquisition is Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, Sir Harry's account of how he wound up with John Brown, bottled up in the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Early on in the story, in a discourse about popular perceptions of heroes, Flashy makes a flat-out accusation that caught my eye: He claims that Benjamin Franklin, while serving at the American Embassy in Paris, also worked as an agent ("Agent No. 72") for British Intelligence, passing on information that led to heavy losses in American shipping. In the footnotes, Fraser cites A History of British Secret Service by Richard Deacon (1980) as his source.
My question is - how about this? I've read a couple biographies of Franklin, most recently the one by Walter Isaacson, but don't recall any mention of such activities. On the other hand, by now I trust Fraser not to serve up such a stupendous accusation without having some pretty solid support for it. (Of course, I know nothing about this Deacon feller, but my experience is that Fraser stays away from the more wild-eyed brand of historian.)
I must say that from what I have read about Franklin, the idea that he might have been working for the Brits does not greatly surprise me. Of all the Founding Fathers, he is one of my least favorite, his motto always being "Ben First." A little bet-hedging with the Crown seems perfectly in keeping with this character.
Anyone have any thoughts?
UPDATE: I know about the story that Franklin's private secretary in Paris, Edward Bancroft, was a British spy. Indeed, I'm not sure there's much controversy about this. It's also fairly common knowledge that the American Embassy was chock full of British and French agents, that the Brits regularly tried to woo Franklin with promises of this, that and the other, and that a hefty amount of back-stabbing went on among the mission personnel themselves.
In assessing the claim against Franklin himself, it's important to have in mind what exactly one means by "spying." I don't really believe that Ben would have been working actively to bring down the American government. On the other hand, the man was a wiley player and in a very difficult situation and might very well have tolerated Bancroft's activities and perhaps connived a bit himself just so that he'd have some coin with the Crown in the event the Revolution went belly-up.
Incidently, Fraser tosses this episode into Flashy's tale to illustrate the point that people do not wish to hear bad things about their heroes.
December 11, 2006
Evil Holiday Timewaster
It's easy - use the mouse to position your guys and launch snowballs. Two hits and the other kid falls down. After the third hit, he doesn't get up again.
Hint: Everybody's right handed. Don't let yourself get outflanked to the left or you won't have a shot. And when you get to the higher levels, just concentrate on one of your guys and let the other two get picked off.
I can't remember what my record is on this one, but I know that in years past I've made it into double-digit levels.
UPDATE: Level 10 Bonus Round. C'mon, you know you want to try it! [Insert eviiiiil laugh here]
Random Commuter Observation
I heard what had to be the saddest commercial I can ever remember on the radio this morning. It was one of those ersatz "interviews" between the deejay and a "guest celebrity" that, after a few seconds puffing the celeb's exciting career, segues into product placement.
Lately, it seems she's been a regular on That 70's Show, although since I never watched it, I couldn't comment.
So what was so saddening about the commercial? Well first, despite the requisite chirping about how wonderfully happy and busy her life is, the fact of the matter is that this woman sounded terrible, delivering extremely stilted and painfully unconvincing lines in a three-packs-a-day Brawnx croak.
Second, the product she was flogging was some new "boutique resort" in Orlando. "Boutique," "resort," and "Orlando," are three of the more awful words in the English language to begin with. Together, their air of cheesiness is downright overpowering.
The combination of washed up actress and dubious sales pitch was, well, horrid, although I don't really lay the blame at Ms. Roberts' feet: Even if the company behind the project had got Alistair Cooke as their pitch man, nothing could be done to rid it of the stench.
At the same time, I couldn't help wondering what set of circumstances brought the two together. Yes, I know it's the money, but it strikes me that somebody has to fall pretty far and pretty hard to wind up doing something like this. By the end of the commercial, I felt genuine sorrow for the poor woman.
(Not the effect the advertisers had in mind, I'm sure. But then again, I doubt if I'm the likely target audience either.)
Gratuitous 'Fins Posting (TM)
Robbo's Rule of Thumb is that any season in which the 'Fins take at least one game off the Pats can't be considered all bad. However awful the rest of our record, we at least have this silver lining to savor. (The corollary of this is that any season in which the 'Fins take both games off the Pats is to be considered a winning season, regardless of the rest of the record.)
Of course, the fact that we skunked 'em made it all the more sweet.
December 10, 2006
I'm Robbo The Llama And I'm An Idiot
So yesterday afternoon we broke out the footlocker full of ornaments and decorated the Christmas tree.
The Christmas tree that had grown on a hillside so that the base angled away from the true line of the trunk.
The base that I was too lazy to recut true and figured I could compensate with some clever adjustments of the holding screws on the stand.
The stand with the water reservoir that has bulged out over the years so that all four feet never touch the floor at the same time.
The floor in the corner of the living room that is somewhat warped and no longer, strickly speaking, a horizontal surface.
A surface the uneveness of which I've become accustomed to compensating by placing blocks of wood under the feet of the stand as needed.
Surely you can see where this is going by now.
Yippers, I fought the law of physics and the law won. About three quarters of the way in, with most of the decorations on the side of the tree facing out into the room, the damned thing fell over on me. Literally on me. One minute I was standing with my back turned to it, the next I was enmeshed in fir branches and being showered with glass. As you might imagine, this caused something near panic among the Llama-ettes. Picture me, then, hunched over, draped with light strings, and surrounded by broken glass, one hand jabbing into the bush for the trunk, and doing my best Kevin Bacon/Chip Diller home-coming parade crowd control, "Remain calm! All is well!!"
The good news is that despite the fact that a number of decorations fell off, only one or two were actually smashed, and none of them were among the ones we really value (which include a pair of beautiful sand-dollars with red ribbons on them, both of which survived intact, mirabile dictu).
The bad news is that unlike a patient man (which I've never claimed to be), who would have taken everything off the tree, pulled it outside, sawn the base properly, brought it back in and tried again, I simply redistributed the decorations a little more evenly and reenforced the legs of the stand on the weak side.
This may qualify me for coveted double idiot status.
Let's hope she holds this time.
December 08, 2006
You Can't Take The Sky From Me
So when I read about NASA's plan to set up a colony on the moon the other day, my first thought was, "Wouldn't it be cool if they renamed the moon 'Whitefall'?"
Also, I'm taking the two elder Llama-ettes to a laser-tag birthday party tomorrow morning. If I don't stand out too conspicuously among the parents, I plan to play too (at the request of the gels, btw). Part of me wants to try and get the kiddies to play Browncoats vs. Alliance. (Don't laugh - I'd bet the gels' college tuition it's been done before.)
All this gets me thinking that maybe it's time to walk away from the Firefly DVD's for a bit.
Gratuitous Musickal Posting
I was chatting with the mater this afternoon and mentioned how much I enjoyed listening to Schubert's 9th Symphony when taking long runs.
"Well," she said, "Some people call it 'the Great.' I, on the other hand, call it 'the Large.'"
I pointed out that this is a boon when exercising, since if you miss something the first time around, you've got three or four chances to hear it again.
At that, Mom broke into a Seinfeld-like shtick:
"You like that?" she said, imitating ol' Franz, "You wanna hear it again? Cause really - I got nothing else."
You Schubertians out there know exactly what I'm talking about.
Emerging from my hole
Last exams handed out, last candidate has left campus. We hosted three candidates for a position the past two weeks, and I underestimated the stress of just being the person in charge of the whole thing. For a host of reasons I can't/won't be more specific, so you'll just have to trust me on that.
The Dear One's Aunt arrives tomorrow, and her annual December visit has become mythic in the eyes of our children. "Auntie brings Christmas" as they say, and we'll be getting the tree and generally breaking out all the decorations. I relish all her visits, but the Christmas one most of all. Sunday night is Lessons and Carols, one of my favorite nights of the whole year.
R.I.P. Jeane Kirkpatrick
One of my early political heroes has passed away at the age of 80.
Here's her speech to the 1984 Republican National Convention, in which she coined the phrase "San Francisco Democrats." She begins:
This is the first Republican Convention I have ever attended.
I am grateful that you should invite me, a lifelong Democrat. On the other hand, I realize that you are inviting many lifelong Democrats to join this common cause.
I want to begin tonight by quoting the speech of the president whom I very greatly admire, Harry Truman, who once said to the Congress:
"The United States has become great because we, as a people, have been able to work together for great objectives even while differing about details."
"The elements of our strength are many. They include our democratic government, our economic system, our great natural resources. But, the basic source of our strength is spiritual. We believe in the dignity of man."
That's the way Democratic presidents and presidential candidates used to talk about America.
These were the men who developed NATO, who developed the Marshall Plan, who devised the Alliance for Progress.
They were not afraid to be resolute nor ashamed to speak of America as a great nation. They didn't doubt that we must be strong enough to protect ourselves and to help others.
They didn't imagine that America should depend for its very survival on the promises of its adversaries.
They happily assumed the responsibilities of freedom.
I am not alone in noticing that the San Francisco Democrats took a very different approach.
Go read the rest. Switch out the word "Soviets" and insert the word "Islamofascists" and it scans almost as well today as it did 22 years ago. Switch out "Carter" and insert "Clinton" and it's downright spooky.
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Dammit
Ah, holiday traditions!
Here's one of my most time-honored: Every year I spend a long, long time and use a good deal of unseasonal language untangling the strings of Christmas tree lights I had simply wadded up any old way the year before. And every year I vow that I'm going to store them properly when I take them back off. And every year when I do take them off, I just say "Oh the hell with it, I'll deal with them next year," and proceed to chuck them back into storage any old way.
Once again we've come full circle. @#(*$&*#(!!!
More Digital Camera Blegging
I've been given the green light by the Orgle Manor estate agent, aka the Missus, to go ahead and purchase a digital camera for Christmas.
So I'm looking at the Canon Powershot 6.0MP A540. It certainly is cheaper than many of them but also seems to have a goodly number of bells and whistles.
Remember, we're not the Ansel Adams family - we just want something that will do an adequate job.
So what do you think? Yes? No? Maybe?
UPDATE: It is done. Just wait till it gets here and I figure out how to load pics onto the ol' blog. You'll rue the day. I'm talking imminent rueage.**
(** Bonus points for spotting the quote. And no, I don't mean the Biblical one.)
YIPS from Steve-O: In the immortal words of Joey Lawrence, "Whoa."
Same very recent wifely green light, same purchase.
Waaaaaaaaaaaay same rueage imminent.
Off doing my part in the war against bioterrorism.
Alas, as a war cry, "Llaaamaaas!!!" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Wolveriiiines!!!"
Yips! to the gajillion Alert Readers who forwarded the article.
UPDATE: In the meanwhile, I'm off to get a haircut and buy some more Christmas tree lights. (Yes, it's the much-maligned compressed work schedule Friday off.) Yip! at you later.
December 07, 2006
I Eats Shoots & Leaves
What's the expression bandied about these days to justify the average yo-yo's appalling grammar? "Post-literate culture," I think they call it. The rationale seems to be that with the rise of automatic spell-check, new e-mail and IM shorthands, and other techno-frippery, nobody needs to know how to read or write the Queen's English anymore.
Feh, says I.
Yips! to fellow grammar shark Jordana.
Gratuitous Llama First-Time-To-Me Nexflix Movie Review
Waiting for Guffman (1996), Christopher Guest's send up of small town theatrics.
A very amusing film, but two small points, one substantive, the other technical:
1. I saw the plot device about Guffman's arrival at the theatre coming a loooooong way off. I know that the point of the movie was really just to enjoy the actors' performances, but this was a leetle too obvious a twist for me.
2. The orchestra was too good. In my experience, no community theatre band plays that well. It seems to me much more realistic that the amateurism in the pit should match that on the stage.
Other than that, grab your stools and watch it!
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Jihad
The Colossus borrows from Winnie to nicely sum up the vaunted ISG Report on Iraq.
Me? I reckon we've blinked. Dubya had the right instincts, but we're still too hesitant about throwing our weight about militarily. And at home, the fire's gone out. 9/11 is slipping over the horizon of our collective fifteen minute memory and politically we're running out of the stomach to fight. You can argue about why it's all worked out this way, and I fully blame Dubya for a good bit of it, but such Monday morning quarterbacking strikes me as largely moot at this point.
So what will happen? Well, I figure the pressure to cut and run (call it what you will) will continue to mount until such time as either this White House or the next concocts a plan to withdraw while claiming victory regardless of what happens in Iraq (and the entire Middle East, for that matter) after we leave. We'll congratulate ourselves with appropriate Foggy Bottom diplomatic triumph language, but of course we won't really fool anybody - the world, and especially the bad guys, will conclude that we are, to borrow Osama's image, the weak horse after all. And they will act accordingly.
I guess in short, I'm coming around to the Derbyshire/Stein fatalist view that the only thing which will finally galvanize America enough to confront global Islamofacism head-on with the required resolve will be the nuking of one of our major cities. (Not the most comforting thought, considering I spend most of my time a few blocks from Ground Zero.) Parodoxically, this would be a huge strategic mistake for the Al-Q crowd, who are far better off nickel and diming us to death. However, I don't think they'll be able to resist the temptation to grandstand.
The curious thing is that while the prospect of this scenario is horrifying, finally arriving at the conclusion that it's going to happen is actually something of a relief. Damocles suffered torment because he never knew if the sword was going to bean him, much less when. I'm now pretty sure it's on its way, so can just sit back and wait for it to arrive. (Whether Slim Pickens will be sitting astride it, I don't yet know.)
Of course, if I'm wrong, I guess that will work out even better because I'll be relaxed and not dead.
In the meantime, Yeeeeeeeee-Haaaaaawwww!!!
(Oh, and Happy Second Blogday to Coloss!)
My prayer today is that in 2066, people can wake up and forget at first that is the 11th of September, only remembering later over coffee and smiling, and give quiet thanks to their grandparents and great grandparents for rising up and smiting the enemies of this nation.
Today I give thanks to the newspaper editors and members of the media who did not break the story they could have easily won pulitzers for about how the United States and Great Britain had cracked Enigma, Purple, and other Axis codes, even if it did entail monitoring the correspondence of resident aliens.
Today I give thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for defying the will of the US Congress, and its deranged isolationist wing, for doing all he could--much of it against the spirit if not the letter of the Neutrality Laws--to help keep England in the War against the Nazis.
Today I give thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for aggressively waging war on Nazi Germany, to the degree of adopting the "Europe First" philosophy, even though the Nazis had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.
December 06, 2006
Just to cause trouble among those whose homes I am already wrecking through my links to the Hamsterpault, can I just point out here that my new single flight record is now 748 feet? (I'd have hit a new record total score, too, except that I whiffed the next flight, only getting 67 feet.)
Well, don't just sit there - get flying!
UPDATE: Let me just clarify that the monster flight was an extreme fluke and that my average is closer to 150-175.
I'm more and more convinced that this game is kinda like fishing. The rockets are everything to a long flight. Sometimes you're just in the right place to keep running into schools of them. Other times, they're nowhere to be found and you get skunked.
That's My Church!
Sorry if the Episco-blogging is getting a bit tedious, but I thought you'd be interested in this:
T'other day I was ranting about the escalating slide of the ECUSA into open civil war under the guidance of Her Graceness the new PeeBee and the move-along-nothing-to-see-here air I sense around my own parish. I wondered then if I shouldn't ought to try and do something to change this.
Today, I get an email from the Rector wanting to know if I'd like to switch back over from the Parish Life committee, on which I currently serve, to the Adult Education committee, which I used to do.
Coincidence? Perhaps. I'm reasonably sure he doesn't read us Llamas and I certainly can't imagine why he would want to put a potential gadfly like Self back on the committee that is responsible for setting post-service programming on Sunday mornings. It may just be that he's noticed the way my eyes have tended to glaze over recently at meetings to arrange the punch and cookies for various parish social gatherings.
At any event, I think I'm going to take the job. I'm also going to nominate myself as Unofficial Schism Czar, making it my business to keep as fully informed of the latest news as possible and try and figure out the best way to beat the drum for more what they like to call "engagement" by the parish on this issue. The Rector may ultimately kybosh me, but it's better to give it a try than to sit about silently grumbling.
As Basil Fawlty would say, "Just trying to enjoy myself."
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
Pinched from Mixolydian Don.
Gratuitous Llama Book Review
MASH by Richard Hooker.
Following up on The Irish Elk's intriguing post of t'other day about Dr. William Hornberger (aka Richard Hooker), who wrote the original novel on which the movie and the tee vee series were based, I bowed to curiosity and nipped over to the Devil's Website to buy a copy of the book myself.
Well, I'm glad I did. It's really not a very well written novel, but it is both fascinating and entertaining, with a couple LOL moments along the way.
Go on over to the Elk's post to read about the gradual drift from the original non-political story written by a pretty conservative doctor to the tee vee series that gave rise to the expression "the Alan Alda treatment" by way of Robert Altman's movie. There's really no need for me to remap it here. It's perfectly plain, though, that Korea was not Vietnam and that the people who served there -at least as recorded by Hooker - simply did not have the early 70's mindset enshrined in the screen adaptations.
Nonetheless, although I came to loathe the tee vee series, I've always enjoyed the movie. Naturally, then, I couldn't help reading the book without the movie in the back of my mind. Here are a few quick thoughts about the two together:
-- The movie fiddles with the story, but it really doesn't invent much. All the set pieces - the Painless Pole's suicide attempt, Hawkeye and Trapper's surgery/golf junket to the rear, the football game, etc. - come out of the book, as do many of the mannerisms and catch-phrases. However, it's interesting that the motivation behind Painless's black capsule episode changes significantly. In the book, he simply suffered from bouts of depression. It was only in the movie that he became obsessed with the idea that he might be gay. How liberal is that? (Oh, the Burns/Houlihan sex scene and the shower stunt are both Hollywood inventions, too. I let these pass because I think they're both funny.)
-- I've always thought that one of the weak points of the movie is Robert Duvall's Frank Burns, who is really nothing more than a cartoon character, a pretty good example of Hollywood's view of the Religious Right. While I still lay the blame for this at Altman's liberal feet, having read the book, I understand that he really didn't have much material to start with. Indeed, Major Burns is a composite of two relatively minor characters from Hooker's story - a "sky-captain" major whom Hawkeye and Duke get rid of early on, and a Captain Burns, with whom they have conflicts over his medical imcompetance.
-- Two characters who do get short shrift in the movie are Henry Blake and Father Mulcahey. In the book, Blake is indeed something of a regular army nit, but he also has some common sense and instinctively looks after his men. The doctors of the Swamp come to respect him a great deal. Even more so, Father Mulcahey, aka "Dago Red," is not some fussy, superfluous fly-weight. His devotion to both the camp and its patients is quite marked, he displays wisdom, courage and humorous tolerance, and he is held almost in awe by Hawkeye and his friends. Here I think the hand of Altman, anxious not to let figures of temporal and spiritual authority look too good, is too heavy. It's one thing to accent the boobishness of Burns already on display in the novel. It's something else to alter Blake and Mulcahey to rob them of their more admirable attributes.
-- Ending on a good note, perhaps my favorite line in the movie comes when Hot Lips Houlihan storms into Blake's tent and threatens to resign her commission if Blake doesn't rein in Pierce & Co. Blake responds, "Goddammit, Hot Lips! Resign your goddam commission!" I was delighted to see that this came straight out of the original.
Anyhoo, I think any fan of the movie would get a kick out of reading the book.
The long, dark night of the soul
Kelly and the Midnight Knitters would have made a great name for an 80's band, kind of a Dexy's Midnight Runners knock-off.
December 05, 2006
Le Mot Juste, Google Edition
Well, it appears that the Llama claim to the Google-search crown for "Alexandra Steele airhead" remains secure.
However, despite our possession of the title, I have long maintained that Ms. Steele is not an airhead. She is, instead, a bimbo. And she is perfectly matched in the evening with TWC mimbo Jim Cantore - together, they've got enough designer dentistry, spray-on tan, gym hard body, gold chain and leather accessories to (gosh, what's the phrase I want here?) supply Hedonists-R-Us for six months.
So you see, the Google crown is really kinda worthless. You want an airhead? This is an airhead:
Suiting Up For The Sandbox
INDCent Bill has a long but interesting post today about the body armor he's chosen for his upcoming Iraqi embed gig.
It just so happens that I spotted Bill hoofing around Dee Cee in his new gear the other day and managed to snap off this photo from my cell phone:
Hey, I kid because I love. And because I outweigh Bill by all of six pounds.
Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM) - Scots Wha Hey! Division
Last Saturday we attended the baptism of a close family friend's baby at the National Cathedral. As is their usual custom for formal occasions, my Godfather and his son both appeared in full Highland rig.
The Llama-ettes found this to be hy-larious, the elder gels apparently asking Uncle if he had any undies on underneath. (Given his devotion to authenticity, that's not a question to which I'm sure I'd want to know the answer, much less have the gels find out. It strikes me that the concept of "nay trew" ought to be reserved for their more mature years. Like when they're about 35.)
Anyhoo, this costume is still the talk of the breakfast table several days later. And despite the repeated efforts of the Missus and myself to convince the gels that the proper word is "kilt," they insist on using the expression "man-skirt."
If ever I had toyed with the idea of a kilt in my own tartan, this pretty much tears it - the six year old was nearly doubled over this morning at the thought of "Daddy in a man-skirt - with no undies! Oh, ha ha ha!" I'm sure that my appearance in such rig would utterly destroy what little paterfamilias authority I manage to maintain.
Random Commuter Observation
Which expression is worse:
"It's not the heat, it's the humidity."
"It's not the cold, it's the wind chill."
December 04, 2006
Gratutious Holiday Musickal Tradition Posting
This weekend, I stumbled across the 1977 Baryshnikov/American Ballet Theatre production of The Nutcracker. Although I saw this many times on PBS as a kid, it must be twenty years since I last did. I'm happy to report that, although the colors of the tape were nearly washed out, the performance was as good as I remember it. (Full disclosure: for all my musickal posting, ballet is the form about which I know the least, so don't count on my opinion here as being worth much.)
The only thing that disturbs me about this performance is the way it seems to emphasize the relationship between Clara (danced by young hotshot Gelsey Kirkland, whom Mr. Baryshnikov apparently was giving a little extra pied-a-pading at the time), and her Godfather Drosselmayer (played by creepy-looking Alexander Minz). Something just a wee bit icky about that whole business - you almost expect Drosselmayer to break into a chorus of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls". I've always meant to reread the original E.T.A. Hoffman to see if there's anything to this sexual undercurrent. Even if there is, I can attest from other performances that it isn't necessary in order to make the ballet work.
Anyhoo, I was quite pleased enough to go out and buy the DVD. It would be nice if the Llama-ettes got as hooked on this as I did (and didn't have to sit through interminable PBS fundraising to do it).
That's My Church!
The local secession of the Falls Church and Truro from the Diocese of Virginia made the front page top-of-the-fold of the WaPo this morning. I think this Truro parishioner summed up nicely the internal conflict a lot of us conservative Palies are feeling over all this:
"In one sense there is a sadness because this feels like a death," said Mary Springmann, a soft-spoken stay-at-home mother who worships at Truro and plans to vote to split when a week of voting begins Sunday. "Like someone who has been gravely ill for a long time, you keep hoping there's going to be a recovery. And at some point you realize it's not going to happen. Right now . . . there is a feeling of hope and expectancy about where God is going to lead us next. It's kind of exciting."
The vote by the diocese is one more step in a carefully planned strategy by conservative Episcopalians in the United States and primates of Anglican provinces, many in the developing world, to unite the conservatives, claim the mantle of Anglicanism and isolate the Episcopal Church, the 2.3-million-member American branch in the Anglican communion, which claims 77 million members worldwide.
This is pretty typical of the press coverage to date, suggesting that everything in the Church was going along swimmingly until those wild-eyed, tongue-swallowing conservatives started making waves. It cannot be pointed out too often that, while this may indeed be a carefully orchestrated movement, it is a defensive one. Even after the ordination of Bishop Robinson at the '04 General Convention, I believe the majority of conservatives were still willing to try and work out some kind of compromise provided all views were respected. But the elevation of
a moonbat an extremely liberal High Priestess and the non-apology apology to Canterbury of the '06 GC made plain that there's a new Order in the Church, and if we don't like it we can just deal with it. Well, we're dealing with it.
The crisis is now on us and things are going to get much worse shortly. Representatives of the Communion as a whole will be meeting at Lambeth in 2008. The ECUSA is already on a kind of probation with the Communion, having had certain voting rights and other powers temporarily suspended in the aftermath GC '04, such suspension to be reviewed next year in light of the ECUSA's behavior since then. Personally, I think the Church has supplied more than enough rope to hang itself with the Communion.
What begins to worry me is the almost total lack of acknowledgement of any of this at my own church. I've begun sounding out parishioners and vestry members about what steps we ought to be taking now: if nothing else, it seems vital to me that we (meaning the entire congregation) keep fully up to date on the matter and begin a kind of rolling assessment of our own options and the questions we ought to be considering in evaluating those options. So far, the responses I've received suggest that the rector simply does not want to discuss the issue, that he does not want the church to become politicized and that there is no need to talk until after the fact, if at all. This is basically the approach that was taken when Robinson became bishop, and he could get away with it then in a kind of Uncle Owen "It's all such a long way from here," way. But the rector can't simply walk in one fine Sunday and announce, "Oh, by the way, we're no longer part of the Anglican Communion."
I've grumbled before about my dissatisfaction that all our vestry seems to be concerned with is fund-raising. Perhaps it's turning out to be my "calling" to take the lead in agitating for greater awareness about these apostolic matters among our little flock. Note that I say "awareness" - in this role, I'm not so much concerned about what choices the parishioners make as I am that they fully comprehend the stakes and do not simply go quietly where the rector tells them to. They're going to have to make such choices, whether they or the rector like it or not.
UPDATE: Her Graceness responds to the San Joaquin rebel scum:
I lament the actions of the Bishop and Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin to repudiate their membership in the Episcopal Church. While it is clear that this process is not yet complete, the fact that the Bishop and Convention have voted to remove the accession clause required by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church would seem to imply that there is no intent to terminate this process before it reaches its full conclusion. Our task as the Episcopal Church is God's mission of reconciling the world, and actions such as this distract and detract from that mission.
I deeply lament the pain, confusion, and suffering visited on loyal members of the Episcopal Church within the Diocese of San Joaquin, and want them to know of my prayers and the prayers of many, many others.
I continue to consult with others involved in responding to this extracanonical action.
Presiding Bishopress, the more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers.
Drawing A Line In The Pine Needles - Update
I mistakenly placed the farm in the Shenandoah in my earlier post. In fact, it just seems that it's that far out. The place actually sits on the east slopes of the Blue Ridge and has a beautiful view of the Loudoun Valley. Nonetheless, I do believe I easily set a record for distance traveled to select a tree this year.
Normally, I'd put in a plug right about here, highly recommending to anybody in the Dee Cee area that it's worth the trip to go out and visit. But, apparently, this is not necessary - the Missus and I were astonished by how many people were still there late on a Sunday afternoon. A good many of them seemed to be from around Leesburg, just down the road, but we saw a fair number of Fairfax County stickers and even a few Dee Cee and Mur'land plates as well.
I have to confess that I've never been to a cut-yer-own place before. This had the same carnival-like atmosphere as some of the pick-yer-own apple orchards I've been to, with the added bonus of kids racing up and down the slopes brandishing hacksaws. (And speaking of which, it seems the sight of ol' Dad industriously cutting down a monster Douglas fir was a source of profound amusement to the Llama-ettes, as well as the Missus. Indeed, she made me stand for a picture after I was done with one foot on the neck of the thing. Go figure.)
The other bonus of the place was watching people haul their catches back to the barn. I love the brutally simple concept: you want that tree two hundred yards down the slope? Here's a rope - go get it. The efforts of the various combinations of parents, children and dogs setting to this task were quite entertaining, especially with the larger trees.
And here, at least, the Llama-ettes made themselves moderately useful: at least on the downhill slope, the two younger gels were able to pull our tree along under their own steam. Unable to resist the urge, I mortified several passers-bye by keeping up a stream of drill sergeant-flavored comments such as, "All right, you flyweights, put your backs into it!"
I think I also mortified the Missus after we paid for the tree. The barn where they ring you up is a fair pace up the lane from the parking lot. The farm runs a shuttle consisting of a tractor-towed wagon, in which you can place your tree and hitch a lift yourself. For some reason, the idea of using this shuttle did not appeal to me, so after we paid, I hoisted our ten foot tree on to my shoulder and started walking. "Wait, aren't you going on the wagon?" asked the Missus. "Ha!" I replied in a carrying voice, "Wagons are for nancy-boys!"
As Basil Fawlty would say, "Just trying to enjoy myself."
Anyhoo, we delivered the tree back to Orgle Manor safe and sound. I do believe it's one of the largest we've ever had. When we got home, I realized that going through all the trouble of setting it up in the garage and then moving it into the house later on would be ridiculous, so instead I slapped the stand on it and moved it directly into the living room. However, I absolutely put my foot down about not decorating until at least next weekend, so I feel that I can retire from that particular field with the honors of battle.
Oh, and speaking of that, we've always put the tree in the same corner of the same room. As we were driving home last evening, I idly asked the Missus if we should think about trying it somewhere else this year. She replied with one incredulous word: "Change?"
Ah, crankiness about holiday traditions. I can feel the Dark Side flowing in her.
December 03, 2006
"Man, Those Samoans Are A Surly Bunch." ***
*** Bonus points for spotting the quote, of course.
Is it so wrong of me to get an anthropological kick out of sitting down on occasion to watch a couple hours' worth of COPS? As a fed'ral investigator myself (albeit civil, not criminal), I'm fascinated by the way well-intentioned, logical, academic legislation plays out in the bush, as it were. Sure, there's probably a bit of grand-standing by the cops involved, but it's at the individual level, not a Hollywood stunt. And the actual crime-scene stuff rings true to me, a familiar blend of the passionate, the confused and the pathetic.
Laugh if you like.
Burst message from Patrol Base LMC
I've got a few minutes of uninterrupted Internet access and still remember the challenge and password that gets me into other people's blogs. Yours truly is alive and well in Kansas finishing up training before we go on leave, and head off on that all-inclusive travel package to the "cradle of civilization" to help the good guys fight the bad guys. Robbo, thanks for the Christmas poem--it's great. The support I have gotten from family, friends, co-workers, and strangers who see a soldier far from home means more than I will ever be able to adequately express. Keep all who serve in your prayers--we need and appreciate them.
December 01, 2006
Gratuitious Lunchtime Musickal Observation
Just went round the corner to Au Bon Pain (French for "The Good Pain") to grab a sammich.
You know, I've always hated musickal medleys. I find those involving Christmas songs to be especially loathsome, in part because I hate most Christmas music written after, say, 1830, but also because it seems that the hacks who put these things out feel they have special license to create the most garish, awful and guts-ache-inducing arrangements. (The one running at the Pain featured a brass treatment of "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" that came out sounding more like Deutchland Uber Alles. Oh well, could have been worse - there could have been singing.)
Who came up with this wretched concept in the first place? Shoot 'em on sight, says I. And is there anybody out there who actually likes these arrangements? If so, get your ears checked. You may have a problem.
(Aaaaah. Those of you who haven't spent Christmas with the Llamas before have no idea how cranky this season makes me. Hold tight - I'm just getting warmed up!)
Returning from the grave
Most of the week has been spent feeling like one of those red-shirt, mind your own business security guards at CTU, only to find yourself momentarily sharing an elevator with Jack Bauer. The next thing you know, you're being dragged behind a Tijuana 18-wheeler going down a gravel road outside of Bakersfield with 6 inch long banana slugs shoved up your nose.
Plus today is a faculty meeting day and it's raining. Boo-flippin-hoo.
Standing between me and catching up on some blogging is a 3 ft. stack of grading, plus about 20 callbacks I need to make. Urgh.
On The Interpretation Of Dreams
I had an amazingly vivid and convoluted dream last night that involved, among other things, a thunderstorm, a return to the house in which I grew up in Texas, a biodome full of genetically modified crops and also some activities which I don't care to repeat on a family blog. The craziest part of it, however, had to be watching the former associate rector of my church debate Malcolm Reynolds on subjects of theology - and losing.
Dunno what all this means except that I think maybe I'm putting too much garlic in my omlettes.
On Tour With Al-Beeb
The Beeb's account of B16's visit to Istambul would be comic if it were not so tragic. On his way to the Blue Mosque, B16 stopped in at the Hagia Sophia. And what is that? Oh, it's just this old place where Christians used to gather for coffee sometimes:
Earlier, the Pope visited the nearby Hagia Sophia Museum, a site heavy with Christian and Muslim symbolism, drawing protests on the street.
The Pope spent half an hour in Hagia Sophia, a domed complex that was once a Christian centre before becoming a mosque and eventually, a museum.
"[T]hat was once a Christian centre"? Try the mother church of Eastern Christianity. And how did it "become" a mosque? Oh, well, you see it goes back to 1453, when the Turk just couldn't take any more Byzantine insensitivity to the needs of Islam. Of course, the last Byzantine Emperor would have proposed a large-scale government-funded program on mutual respect and tolerance, but he was too busy dying in combat against the Sultan's army before his own gates. That the Turk sacked and desecrated the church before turning it into a mosque was simply an expression of their very deeply offended sensibilities.
The article also notes that rioters were on hair-trigger standby in case B16 made the slightest, you know, religious sign within the church.
Hours earlier, protesters linked to an Islamist-nationalist party had demonstrated about a kilometre away, saying the pontiff's tour was an affront to the secularism enshrined in Turkey's constitution, as well as an attempt to stake a Catholic claim to the site.
The demonstrators warned that any hint of a prayer there would be deeply offensive, but the Pope refrained from any religious gesture, such as praying or crossing himself.
So, let's review:
- The Pope felt compelled to make this trip to begin with in order to "heal wounds" caused by his quotation of an earlier Byzantine emperor who believed that Islam was a violent religion.
- The Pope visits what was once the greatest church in the East but isn't anymore because of the, er, non-existent violence of Islam.
- The Pope is, in effect, threatened with this same non-existent violence if he dares acknowledge that the church was once a church.
- The Beeb goes along with this Orwellian state of affairs, not only reducing the Hagia Sophia to a mere former "Christian centre" but also helpfully pointing out that the Pope wouldn't have to be going through all this if he'd only kept his yap shut to begin with.
God help us all.