Monday, January 16, 2017

Presidential Inauguration Edition - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Presidential Inauguration Edition

Consider this possibility: at the precise and somewhat tense moment of the transition of governments, one sturdy, crewcut fellow wearing a dark suit and dark glasses officially hands off the briefcase with the nuclear codes to a second sturdy, crewcut fellow wearing a dark suit and dark glasses. An unemployed Ringling Brothers / Barnum & Bailey clown positioned immediately behind them then pops a balloon.

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In reading news and commentary (often a waste of time) one gathers that there are, with many exceptions, two hemispheres of reaction (so to speak) to our next president: slavish demi-worship or equally slavish loathing. The reality is that no president can do much of anything for you or to you. No president is going to pay your car note and no president is going to kick in your door and steal your valuable collection of U.S. National Park quarters.

(Bias alert – Y’r ‘umble scrivener voted, yes, but not for either of the loudest candidates.)

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How grand if the new president with his magic pen and telephone issued an order that Americans may hereafter freely buy bright lightbulbs and capacious toilet bowls without let or hindrance.

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Last week the world came to an end again. Weren’t you paying attention? The evening of the 12th was the Wolf Moon, and Venus was at its brightest in eight years. All this was the eve of Friday the 13th, and so the apocalypse, and, like, stuff, y’know? But maybe the Fates are deferring the Gotterdammerung until Friday at noon.

I blame the Russians. And George Bush. And public schools. And fluoride. And global warming. And Jade Helm operatives flying unmarked UN helicopters out of abandoned Wal-Mart stores. And the Green Bay Packers.

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A D.C. company named Don’s Johns has often supplied portable euphemisms for public events in the 51st-it’s-really-a-state-now. Some of the Trumpistas are taking offense on this occasion, and so the Don’s Johns logos will be covered with blue masking tape for the duration of the inauguration.

This may be related to “trump” as an English slang expression for an unfortunate noisy expulsion of flatus.

Happily, the company is not bilingual, so there are no Don’s Juans. That really would annoy someone: “Get ‘em outa here! Build that wall!”

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The inaugural parade will include military marching units, unless all the soldiers report to sick call with disabling heel spurs.

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No one wants to sing at the inauguration. Disapproval? Threats? Maybe someone needs to hire one of those middle-aged high school prom disc jockeys who never got over the BeeGees, and who has a fog machine and some Star Trek-y flashing lights.

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Gosh, what will President Obama do after Friday? Perhaps he could at last take a vacation.

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And, finally: if government functionaries, newsies, Hollywoodsies, and all the rest of us were to demonstrate as much class and character as Malia and Sasha Obama and Jenna and Barbara Bush, this nation would be a lot happier.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Where's Waldo's Pickup Truck? - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Where’s Waldo’s Pickup Truck?

Hey, kids! Forget that omnivorous dog – the excuse now is that the Russians hacked your homework.

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A current topic of discussion is the nature of pickup trucks as a culture / class marker. Those living in rural areas would be hard put to name a family that doesn’t own a pickup; those living in urban areas might be hard put to name a family that does, but disapprove of them anyway.

Country dwellers use pickups to haul fence posts, feed, seed, fertilizer, tools, critters, and crops because if they didn’t their city cousins wouldn’t have anything to eat or anyone to laugh at.

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Confusion 2017: is the C.I.A. good? Or is it bad? The sort of people who used to say it is bad now say it is good. The sort of people who used to say it is good now say it is bad.

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Rumor has it that Donald Trump has assigned the C.I.A. to find Carmen Sandiego as proof of their undying loyalty.

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Our outgoing president, who never made the first day of recruit training, has awarded himself The Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. His obedientiary, Ash Carter, pinned it on him before other real soldiers at Joint Base Myers-Henderson. Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense (euphemism for Secretary for War), also is not a veteran but earlier copped himself a couple of military medals for sitting behind a desk and doing thinky-stuff.

Now that our president is a military veteran, he will be ignored by the DVA. If you like being ignored by the DVA you can keep being ignored by the DVA.

Will our incoming president, also not a veteran, award himself some military medals too? Yuge ones?

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A body impressively styling itself The Council on Foreign Relations ( reports that under President Obama (Nobel Peace Prize laureate), our ironically-named Department of Defense, and our Merovingian Congress the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven other countries in 2016. We have no way of verifying the numbers, nor does the article specify what the COFR might mean by a bomb.

That all worked out so well in Viet-Nam, but, hey, why study history?

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When Donald Trump asks “Where’s Waldo?” his staff reminds him that Waldo isn’t real.

When Chuck Norris asks “Where’s Waldo?” Waldo shows up immediately.


Friday, January 6, 2017

"Until the First Star" - Orthodox Christmas Eve

Lawrence Hall

“Until the First Star” – Orthodox Christmas Eve

The first star won’t be seen this night. The clouds
Obscure this fallen world, and seem to hide
The pilgrim paths to Bethlehem from all
Who seek their Saviour in the colding night

But yet the first star will be seen in truth,
In all the faces around the happy table
Gathered from field and forest, east and west,
Breaking the Advent fast with Christmas joy

And with the liturgies Our Lord is born
Beneath the star that will forever shine

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wouldn't You Like to Die in My Beautiful Balloon? - column

Lawrence Hall, HSG

Wouldn’t You Like to Die in my Beautiful Balloon?

Last month, on 19 December, the real presidential election was held, and given the choices from a catalogue of less-than-ideal candidates the electors chose, well, a less-than-ideal candidate.

The Constitution, which is more discussed than studied, does not provide for direct election of the President. The legislature of each state appoints electors in proportion to the population, and these electors choose the President. The states are not obligated to give the population a voice in this matter except indirectly in the election of representatives and senators. As it is, they do, and when voting for President the citizen is in fact voting for an elector who says he (the pronoun is gender-neutral) will vote for president according to the popular vote, but in most states, including Texas, he is not obligated to do so.

This is inefficient. It is meant to be so. A tyranny is efficient. A Republic is inefficient, built with laws and other encumbrances so that all the people have a voice, not solely the population centers of the New York-California Axis.

The nation survived James Buchanan; it will survive the coming administration.

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According to Bloomberg and other sources, licensed Texas balloon pilot Alfred “Skip” Nichols was on thirteen different medications, including seven FAA-banned drugs, when he crashed his commercial balloon and killed himself and fifteen passengers last July. Mr. Nichols also had five DWI arrests, three drug-related arrests, and two prison terms for drug and alcohol convictions.

Apparently an FAA balloon pilot’s license ( is easier to maintain than a Texas cosmetology license (, and, generally speaking, your barber or beautician is unable to subject you to a screaming, falling, burning death.

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Hipsterism. It’s over. Burn the stupid hats.

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All I know about Russia comes from reading The Brothers Karamazov, so I don’t know what the lads in Moscow and Saint Petersburg are up to in the 21st century. Several years ago I read that Vlad, who sometimes takes off his shirt and wrestles with tigers, had all the computers in the Moscow kremlin removed and replaced with manual typewriters and trustworthy messengers for internal communications. I think he was on to something. The typewriters, I mean, not taking off his shirt and frightening American presidents with his rippling muscles.

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In Australia, a young man named Luke Moore learned that his bank had inadvertently given him a two million dollar overdraft protection on his checking account.

Oh, yeah.

Yes, he’s going to prison for four years because overdraft protection means you have to say you’re sorry and give it back.

Mr. Moore, a law student, spent the last two years, and two million dollars of overdraft, on sports cars, speed boats, and strippers, according to The Sun.

As W. C. Fields might have said, it’s good to know he didn’t waste the money.

Still, four years in prison.

If the law school in Australia doesn’t save his seat, perhaps he can migrate to the USA and become a licensed balloon pilot.


The McDonald's Around the Corner from the Vatican - poem

What Would Chaucer’s Pardoner Say?

Someone has opened a McDonald’s there
Around the corner from Saint Peter’s Square

And this has distressed a cardinal or three -
Yankee capitalism, don’t you see

But Big Mac pays thirty thousand in rent
Each month to the Vatican (Heaven-sent?)

Which owns the building, a profitable touch
Thus paying the water and light bills and such

So bring on the sodas, ‘burgers, and fries
Through golden arches under Roman skies!

Lawrence Hall

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Good King Wenceslas and His Friends - column

Mack Hall, HSG

Good King Wenceslas and His Friends

There is far more to the days after Christmas Day than digestion and football, though I have friends and relatives who would stoutly argue the point. Certainly a lowering of expectations begins a great degree of tranquility in the last days of the old year. Shopping as a blood sport is over for another ten months. Lunch is a pleasant browse through leftovers. Obligatory merriment is off the calendar for a while.

In the Western calendar the 26th of December is St. Stephen’s Day, honoring the first Christian martyr and the patron of charities. St. Paul helped in the stoning by guarding the stoners’ coats. He later regretted that. In the USA this is usually get-back-to-work day; in other cultures this is a day of merriment following the religious observation of Christmas Day.

Good King Wenceslaus, later a martyr himself, “looked out” on the Feast of Saint Stephen and saw a poor man. Following St. Stephen’s example of charity, Wenceslaus and his page (who was not happy about it) journeyed six miles through winter’s ice and snow tracking the poor man to deliver food and wood to his humble abode.

The 28th of December commemorates the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, detailed in Saint Matthew 2:16. King Herod failed to understand the meaning of the Magi, and ordered the slaughter of children whom he perceived to be a threat to him. This is anticipated in Jeremiah 31:15: “…Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not.”

The 29th of December honors Saint Thomas Becket, martyred by King Henry II in 1170 for the freedom of the Church. The 1964 film Becket, adapted from Jean Anouilh’s play and directed by the great Hal Wallis (Casablanca, True Grit), artfully conflates and simplifies events for the sake of the movie’s length, but serves the topic very well. In 1535 Henry VIII finally accomplished the suppression of the Church (as always, in the name of freedom), and had the remains of Becket burned and the ashes scattered.

The first of January is the Solemnity of Mary, and the 6th of January is the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Kings visited the Holy Family.

And may the Three Kings visit all of us in our humble homes this happy new year of 2017.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Morning - Some Dissembling Required

Lawrence Hall

Christmas Morning – Some Dissembling Required

Does the quiet magic disappear at dawn?
The Star, the stable, shepherds, wise men three
And all the mysteries of Christmas Eve
Seem less than vapor on bright Christmas Day

Among the litter of expectations
Cast happily about, and on the floor
The wrappings and ribbons of little gifts
Received and given around the festive tree

But every noisy moment reminds us:
The quiet magic never goes away

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What Went ye into the Desert too See? - poem

What Went ye into the Desert to See?

What went ye into the desert to see?
A pale liturgist swaying in the wind?
A theologian dressed in soft clich├ęs?
But what went ye to the desert to see?
Thyself, holier than anyone else?
A profit on your Catholic Me-‘blog?
But what ye went out there to see?

Go back.  Go back to the desert, and there
See the least grain of sand, larger than thee.

Lawrence Hall