Thursday, April 30, 2009

THE PRISONER Fact #7

An unfortunate incident occurred on the outer perimeter when #34, a former Vatican superspy, tried to surrender to Rover in Latin.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pilgrimage Along the A1

Mack Hall

From Peterborough drops a road
Across the Fens, into the past
(Where wary wraiths still wear the woad);
It comes to Chesterton at last.

And we will walk along that track,
Or hop a bus, perhaps; you know
How hard it is to sling a pack
When one is sixty-old, and slow.

That mapped blue line across our land
Follows along a Roman way
Where Hereward the Wake made stand
In mists where secret islands lay.

In Chesterton a Norman tower
Beside Saint Michael’s guards the fields;
Though clockless, still it counts slow hours
And centuries long hidden and sealed.

And there before a looted tomb,
Long bare of candles, flowers, and prayers,
We will in our poor Latin resume
Aves for old de Beauville’s cares.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saint Joseph the Just

Mack Hall

For Joe Burns, Father and Teacher

Saint Joseph in a dreary winter night
Took to himself a newborn not his own,
Who yet is always his, the Child of Light
Whose crib Saint Joseph knew to be a throne.

Saint Joseph shows men truth: each child is ours,
Adopted by each good man upon birth;
True fatherhood ordained in starlit hours
And ratified in Heaven and on earth.

Saint Joseph is the man who looked into
The eyes of Mary in her happy youth;
This strong man looked into her eyes and knew
She bore within her all eternal Truth.

Our witness is Saint Joseph, ever just:
God calls each man to take each child in trust.

THE PRISONER -- Fact #6 About #6

#6 is a STAR TREK man, and would not bother A, B, or C-ing to the galaxy next door to see a STAR WARS anything.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weak Tea

Mack Hall


The Boston Tea Party of 1773 is said to have been a reasonable protest against taxation without representation. The English view is that after 150 years it was about time for the colonies to stop being a drag on the English economy and to start helping pay for their own maintenance and defense.

The tea parties of 2009 are less defensible, except for the environmental matter – the tea this year was drunk, not dumped into a harbor to pollute the little fishies. The reality is that our contemporary tea parties are not about lack of representation but rather about folks (wearing clothes made in slave-labor camps in the Far East) throwing polite hissy-fits for getting exactly the government for which they voted.

Or maybe the government for which they did not vote at all.

Indeed, if the one requirement for participation in a Taxed Enough Already Tea Party were the possession of an I-voted-last-November voter card, how many people could have shown up?

Under the kings the theory is that the hierarchy of power is from God to the Christian monarch to the people. Under a republic the usual hierarchy of power is from the people to their elected rulers, and there is no God. In our Republic the general idea has been that power is given by God to the people, who then prayerfully and thoughtfully elect their leaders, which explains the saintly Ted Kennedy, who once walked on water.

Unfortunately most Americans don’t vote. Some can’t, because of youth, mental incompetence, or felony conviction (which doesn’t apply to Rush Limbaugh with his illegal drug issues, because he’s special and you’re not). Of the rest, many don’t bother to register, and of those who register, only about half ever vote. One fears they are too busy obediently listening to Glenn Beck yell at them.

A protest against a federal government that was empowered by democratic vote only four months before seems to be pretty weak tea. Similarly, sitting around over coffee (or tea) and belly-aching about the state government, the county government, the city government, or the school board unless the belly-acher actually voted in those elections is an exercise of the absolute freedom to be a gaseous phony.

Historical minutiae of no particular importance:

1. George Washington was the 11th President, not the first. After independence from perfidious Albion, this country functioned (badly) under the Articles of Confederation. The argument that the first ten presidents were leaders of Congress, not of the Confederation, won’t brew.

2. The United States government has in the past sent the United States Army to shoot and hang tax protestors, beginning with Shay’s Rebellion and The Whiskey Rebellion. Being shot might have been a lesser punishment than having to endure that princess CNN reporter.

3. The first President (I capitalize the noun because of my deep respect for the office) born in the United States was Martin Van Buren. The ten Presidents under the Articles of Confederation were all born in English colonies, as were eight of the first nine Presidents under the Constitution. If the concept that an American President must be American born is valid, then the first President is Van Buren and the second is John Tyler, all those preceding being invalid.

4. The final irony about any American tea party is that very little tea is grown here; most tea consumed in America is grown in over forty countries in Asia and Africa, and imported mostly by English companies.

And, hey, how about that balance of trade with Communist China, eh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Russians in Moc Hoa

I read lots of Russian lit (in translation, of course) while in Viet-Nam

Mack Hall

Russians in Moc Hoa

I understood poor, young Raskolnikov
And read all I found by Anton Chekhov
Remembered nothing about Bulgakhov
Heard naughty whispers about Nabokov
Thrilled to the Cossacks in old Sholokov
And then I learned about Kalashnikov –
This, I decided, is where I get off!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ubi Petrus

Mack Hall

For Inky and Jason

"Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia."
- St. Ambrose of Milan

Where Peter was, there also was the Tomb --
Blood-sodden dreams cold-rotting in old sin,
The Chalice left unwashed, the Upper Room
A three-days’ grave for hope-forsaken men.

Where Peter is, there also should we be,
Poor pilgrims, his, a-kneel before the Throne
Of Eosian Christendom, and none but he
Is called to lead the Church to eternal Dawn.

Where Peter then will be, there is the Faith,
Transubstantiation, whipped blood, ripped flesh
A solid reality, not a wraith
Of shop-soiled heresies labeled as fresh.

Where Peter is, O Lord, there let us pray,
Poor battered wanderers along Your way.

Pontius Pilate's Pleynt

Mack Hall

My Caesar and my Empire have I served,
A diplomatic functionary, true
To distant duties, and never unnerved
By greedy Greek or perfidious Jew.

Outside the arca archa have I thought,
Festooned my desk and office with awards;
My Caesar’s honour only have I sought
While sparing for myself but few rewards.

I built with focused care my resume’
And filed each memorandum, note, and scrip;
I justly ruled (no matter what they say),
And seldom sent men to the cross or whip.

But, oh! That thing about an open vault –
I never got it. And why was that my fault?

Another Fact About THE PRISONER

#6 would have rescued the Maersk Alabama but #2 strapped #6 to that aluminum see-saw in the control room and made him too sea-sick to go.

The Maersk Alabama Incident: One Shot, One Kill, One Million Lawsuits

Mack Hall


The brilliant rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama by the United States Navy leads one to wonder if the roaring we hear is caused by a tidal wave (“tsunami” is so last six months) of lawsuits being filed against America by Americans.

We are awaiting the usual pictures of the requisite peaceful anti-American rioting in London and Paris by peaceful peace activists peacefully chanting “Death to America” and “Peacefully behead those who disapprove of peaceful Islam.”

What has not yet been decided is when the Navy SEALS involved will be turned over to the Belgians for a show trial – uh – fair trial, or when The Leader of the Free World will next genuflect before another thug and apologize for evil, perfidious America’s brutality, colonialism, and carbon-footprintism.

Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, America’s leading druggie Republicans, will whoop and strut like the couch-carrot emperor in Gladiator.

Maersk will probably pay off somebody anyway: “Pretty-please don’t steal our ships.”

Mexico will claim that this is all the fault of the few remaining American gun manufacturers.

The American taxpayer will probably be made to give all the Somali relatives (“He was my third cousin twice removed…sob!”) far more money than is granted to American war widows and orphans.

Greenpeace will sue for the global warming caused by the discharge of weapons.

PETA will kill some more dogs while griping that the First Family did not rescue Bo from a shelter. The President’s Death Star limousine will sport a bumper sticker reading “I (heart) My Portuguese Water Dog.” This will replace the Maersk Alabama in the news.

Germany, Britain, and Norway will squabble about the Altmark incident in 1940, but will in the end agree that it was America’s fault. Descendants will sue America because Texaco sold the British government a can of oil that was later used (according to expert testimony) to lubricate a galley ventilation fan on HMS Cossack.

Hey, how about the Chinese navy stepping in and helping out off East Africa, eh?

U.S. Navy officers anywhere in the world who may have heard of the Maersk Alabama will receive medals; the enlisted men who risked their lives will be told to go clean something.

And in the meantime, between satellite-phone consultations with their American attorneys, Somali pirate-lords will be having the lads clean their AK-47s and brush up on their boarding-party skills.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Little Known Fact #1 About THE PRISONER

#6 finally realized he could intimidate Rover by glaring at him in that head down / eyes up way he uses in the opening.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

History's Lost E-Mails

Mack Hall


A gigantic computer (the 555, not the 666, so it’s okay) hidden away in Belgium has recovered and reconstructed long-lost emails that help give us all new insights (or exsights) into history:

From: whitestar.designoffice@wet.uk
To: titanicbuff@reallywet.uk
Date: 15 April 1912
Subject: Steering

Hey, chaps, like, you know, we made the rudder too bleedin’ small for a ship that size, so you can’t, like, steer around objects very well. If you, like, think you’re going to hit something, like Manhattan Island or an iceberg, the best thing to do is to keep the rudder straight and set all the props in reverse. Hey, you might scrape some paint off the bow, but, like, that’s better than sinking. Any cute girls on board? Been swimming yet?

From: FlowerFairyHitler@happynet.de
To: CigarBoy@downingstreet.uk
Date: 5 April 1945
Subject: Purported note of 3 September 1939

Winnie, my man! What’s shakin’? Hey, big guy, there’s some rumor that your predecessor had an email sent to our ambassador on 3 September back in 1939, but, dude, he never got it! Really! And I sent you some serious emails back in th’ day which you never answered, so, y’know, this whole World War II thing is really your fault, okay? So King’s X or I’m gonna tell my mom on you.

From: Pinkertonspys-are-us@col.com
To: tallguyinthetallhat@gov.com
Subject: Agent Smith and Tomorrow Night’s Theatre Plans
Date: 13 April 1865

Dear Mr. President:

Sir, we need to tell you that Agent Smith, whom we appointed as part of your security detail, has ambitions of being a theatre critic. He tends to pay attention to plays rather than to his job, so I suggest you take a different agent when you go to see Our American Cousin tomorrow night.

Vy. Ob’tly yrs,

Allan Pinkerton“We Never Sleep”

From: uberairshippen@oops.de
To: hindenberg@hotsy.de
Subject: In-flight repairs.
Date: 5 May 1937

Max, old boy! Word from the ground crew back here is that aircraft mechanic Schmidt is worried that he didn’t fully check electromechanical panel 43A, which has something to do with static electricity. Schmidt says if you would have the boys open that panel and make sure that Switch A is pushed to the left and Switch B is centered then your landing in degenerate America will be a whole bunch better. Happy landings, and have a hot time in New Jersey!

To: Hefbaby@gatefold.com
From: therchurchofnowness@something.com
Subject: Admittance to divinity school
Date: 13 February 1952

Dear Mr. Hefner:

Upon reviewing your application and your references, we are offering you a place in the freshman class this term at St. Ponsonby’s School of Divinity. In your letter you referred to your interests in art and publishing, but I can assure you that your gifts seem oriented to the ministry.

Sincerely,

Doctor Reverend Bishop Brother Whittlesby Snark

Yes, we all wonder about the emails that never were.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Mirror of a Man

The Mirror of a Man

For Robin

As his adventures continue

A good knife is the mirror of a man,
Carefully crafted by the Master’s hands,
Forged in the fire, hammered, water-baptized,
And forged again, made strong and sharp and true.


A good knife is the mirror of a friend,
A fellow pilgrim on the sunlit road,
A needful companion, always at hand,
Welcome as sunrise and coffee at dawn.


A good knife is the mirror of a life
Lived humbly in this sometimes Lenten world,
But proven a sword when, at journey’s end,
A man at last enters Jerusalem.



-- Mack Hall, 4 April 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Notre Dame and the Upside-Down Helmet

Mack Hall

You can talk of your Judge Judy and your high school principal and your mother-in-law, but you have never been truly judged and found wanting until you have had a dinner-jacketed maitre d’ at the Notre Dame faculty club evaluate – and find inadequate – your very soul with the subtle arching of an eyebrow above his unblinking reptilian eye.

I was honored to spend a happy summer at Notre Dame under the mentoring of the brilliant and wonderfully humorous Thomas Morris (whom you can find at http://www.morrisinstitute.com and whose books you can find at Amazon.com and other good bookstores). I and the other Fellows of that year’s National Endowment for the Humanities were nominally – remember that adverb – members of the Notre Dame faculty for the six weeks, and I still have my faculty I.D. card somewhere.

Toward the end of our summer we Fellows decided to put on shoes and clean shirts and take a celebratory dinner in the faculty club just to say we had done so, and after appalling Jeeves and some members of the real faculty we enjoyed ourselves immensely in the elegant dining room. It was a fitting end to a marvelous six weeks.

Notre Dame was founded in the middle of the 19th century by a French missionary order, but its football reputation rests on generations of Irish lads who were not welcome at Harvard or Yale. Thus, an accident of immigration resulted in the school mascot NOT being “The Fighting French.” This paragraph has nothing to do with the narrative, and as a teacher I’d take points off for it, but I like it so I’m leaving it in.

The Notre Dame adventure continued when Tom asked me and several others to read and comment on the draft of what would be one of his best books, Making Sense of It All. This was an enjoyable labor for which he gave me many thanks. In all humility I must confess that Tom did not ask me to read or comment on the draft of his next book.

Notre Dame remains dear to me all these years later. I remember with a “I Survived” mentality how our lot were billeted in Saint Edward’s Hall, Lentenly un-air-conditioned during a record-hot summer in which the temps reached 106 day after day. Thus we sloshed in the covered pool when possible, spent our off-class hours reading and writing in the mechanized air of the student commons, and walked in the cool of the evenings, sometimes participating in the Notre Dame tradition of praying the Rosary in the Grotto at dusk.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is only a few steps away from St. Edward’s Hall, and we usually entered by the east door beneath these words carved in the stone of the arch: “God, Country, and Notre Dame.” This is much better than “Me, Me, and AIG” or “Me, Me, and Enron” or perhaps “He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins.” On either side are bronze plaques commemorating the sons – and now daughters, I fear – of Notre Dame who died in America’s wars.

Someone pointed out to me the light at the entrance – a bulb fitted into the upside-down World War I helmet of Fr. Charles O’Connell, who survived and became the 12th president of Notre Dame. I suppose Fr. O’Connell wanted to make sure he could find his helmet in the middle of the night the next time Germany started a war.

Notre Dame du Lac (“Our Lady of the Lake”) began as a grade school in a log cabin in a frozen wilderness in the 1840s, but the French missionary priests envisioned a great university topped by a golden dome and a statue of the Blessed Mother. Generations of sacrifice and service made it so.

The whole point of Notre Dame is that it is a Catholic university. The football team, the upside-down helmet with a light bulb in it, the lovely lakes, the reconstructed log cabin, the rather stupid-looking leprechaun, Knute Rockne and The Gipper – all these are fun, but they are not what Notre Dame is about, the transmission of Christian civilization, via such great teachers as Thomas Morris, from one generation to the next.

The current administration of Notre Dame has invited the President of the United States to speak at graduation in May. Normally this would be a “how nice” thing, because no one listens to graduation speakers, not even to presidents. One attends graduation to dress up like a monk or monkette, pose for pictures, and toss one’s hat and maybe one’s cookies later on, not to listen to someone expel the usual flatus about dreams being the key (there’s always a key) that unlocks the road to the future of the door or something. I dare to say that were Jesus Himself to speak at Notre Dame’s ceremonies in May the graduates would be too busy text-messaging each other to notice: “dud hu d dud in whit keg mi pl8s l8ter.”

Unfortunately, the current president’s fashionable enthusiasm (hey, all the cool kids are doing it, right?) for infanticide has gotten all tangled up in this Christianity thing. When Jesus said that children should be permitted to come to Him, He didn’t mean that the children should be shot, gassed, burnt, poisoned, or flushed first. Indeed, He was very clear that a failure to protect children would be severely punished.

Jesus appeared in a time when the dominant Greco-Roman culture highly approved of killing off any babies, especially girls, whom the sperm-donor or the state found lacking. The modern science of economics under Hitler would later label such children – and folks past retirement age -- as “useless feeders.”

Certainly one may speak freely in a public forum, and the president probably won’t even mention killing babies anyway.

But this forum is different. This forum is Notre Dame, named for Jesus’ Mother, who chooses life. Further, the speaker is going to be given an honorary doctorate in, oh, doctorness or something, which would imply a Christian school’s ratification of his contempt for the lives of the most vulnerable among us. This ratification is to be made during the graduation of hundreds of young men and women who are now forced into an unhappy alternative: to attend the graduation they have earned and thus possibly be construed as approving of the killing of babies, or staying away entirely and denying themselves their special day. That choice that was not part of the deal when they entered Notre Dame four years ago.

One wonders if the current maitre d’ at the Notre Dame faculty club -– or anyone else -- will lift an eyebrow at that.