Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Remembrance of Death

The last summer leaves at last spinning silently down in the grey, misty, dying days of December often remind thoughtful men of their own mortality; the seriousness of the reminder is perhaps compromised by the awareness that human bodies falling from oak trees would hit the ground with loud thumps.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Patented Electrical Reading Machine & Moustache Waxer

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Patented Electrical Reading Machine & Moustache Waxer

For Christmas long ago my parents gave me a boy’s book of Robin Hood, and Robin Hood stories read as well in adult life as in boyhood. If I ever lose this Christmas volume I can now call up Sherwood Forest on The Patented Electrical Reading Machine & Hoof Trimmer.

For Christmas this year my daughter gave me an e-reader, hereinafter referred to as the Noodle (the reviews imply that there is little to differ between the Nook and the Kindle), and the gadget appears to live up to its ads.

The Noodle is a little larger than a paperback and about as light. The machine displays a page at a time, and it really is as easy on the eyes as an ink-on-dead-tree page. The typeface can be made larger, and this is certainly a bonus for the optically-challenged among us.

The Noodle comes with a leaflet instead of an instruction book, and getting started is fairly easy. One must register the Noodle with its book chain sponsor, and generate the usual passwords and such, which is only a minor nuisance. Once this is accomplished, using the Noodle is quite easy.

At the foot of the screen is a menu which is relatively easy to navigate although the touch-screen controls are designed for small and nimble fingers. My first attempt to download a book was very slow, but that was on Christmas afternoon when everyone in America who found a Noodle under the tree was doing the same; early the next morning there was no delay at all.

To download a book one must be within what is termed a Wi-Fi hot spot, which is where people with computers gather together to ignore each other. However, since the book is stored within the electrical brain of the machine, one needn’t be near civilization at all in order to read it.

E-books are cheaper than dead-tree books, and the catalogue of new books is the same as one would find on display at the bookstore. Besides new books, though, the Noodle offers thousands of more obscure books (“many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore”) not otherwise available, and many of these are free. I downloaded some ten out-of-copyright books by G. K. Chesterton without any cost at all.

For my Noodle I bought a cover made of imitation Italian leather. I wish I had bought one made from a real Italian instead of an imitation Italian; the imitation leather is a bit greasy-finger-printy. However, it does hold the Noodle securely, making a drop less likely, and provides some padding. The cover also has convenient pockets inside.

Advantages of a Patented Electrical Reading Machine:

1. The electric brain stores hundreds and possibly thousands of books (an Agatha Christie takes up much less space than the Douay-Rheims Bible), which is very convenient for travel. Further, shelf space is at a premium even for the settled among us; our old friends need not be crowded out by new purchases.

2. E-books (to go with your e-dog and e-coffee, and e-chair) are cheaper than physical books.

3. You own the books. If the Patented Electrical Reading Machine is lost or stolen or eaten by the family dachshund, the replacement machine need only be re-coded in order to access your portable library.

4. Long battery life, days at least when disconnected from the Wi-Fi.

5. You can subscribe to e-editions numerous newspapers and magazines.

6. Walking around with a Noodle under your arm will make you look both scholarly and tech-y, sort of a cross between Tennyson and Steven Jobs.

Disadvantages of a Patented Electrical Reading Machine:

1. It is a gadget, and will eventually break.

2. It is not a real book; you can’t underline favorite passages or clever repartee, or makes notes on margins or the blank pages. I haven’t yet discovered a quick way of skipping around chapters or short stories, and you can’t work the daily crossword on it.

3. The communications channels are crowded, especially in the evenings, and there can be some delay in accessing and downloading.

4. The Noodle has to be recharged occasionally. You can’t carry spare batteries; everything’s internal. This could be a problem if you join Robin Hood’s men because there are no electrical outlets in Sherwood.

5. The 1984 factor: our successive governments centralize and gather power, and presume even to control electrons and an abstract concept call “airwaves.” Thus, electronic books are far more subject to censorship and destruction than physical ones. In a recent matter one company, learning that it didn’t own copyright permission to sell a certain book, simply made the book disappear from the electronic readers of people who had bought it. A hostile government or individual could just as easily make unwanted electronic books disappear so that Americans wouldn’t get uppity.

6. Maybe you don’t want to look like Tennyson or Steven Jobs.

There is an irony that the great books – and even the frivolous books – of free nations should be available only on contraptions made in a country that has never known an elected government and is at present a giant slave-labor camp. Robin Hood would not approve, but then, perhaps Liu Xiaobo is China’s archer of freedom, and maybe someday we can read about him on a Noodle made in a free country.

-30-

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Among the Sandbags

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Christmas Among the Sandbags

An old Navy buddy telephoned me for Christmas, and we marched down memory grinder to long-ago days in San Diego.

Mike and I were in boot camp together for four months, real boot camp, not the Barbie-therapy thing for petting the misunderstood youths who stole your car, and then Hospital Corps ‘A’ School for another four or so months. On the day we graduated from ‘A’ school all of us new Corpsmen were loaded into three trailers and trucked to Camp Pendleton for a month of Field Medical Service School. Upon arrival we were given a jolly greeting by Sergeant Snyder, who had us sit in groups of four for a little comforting this-ain’t-no-S-word advice: he told us to look at the other three, and said that within a year one of the four would not be alive.

A civilian teacher never has to tell his students that their mortality rate by the end of next term will be 25%.

Most of us who later found ourselves up and down small rivers on small boats survived; far more of those who patrolled with the Marines died violently because men in Washington all clean and dry in white shirts and expensive suits thought the deaths of 19-year-olds was somehow a good idea.

They still do.

After Field Medical Service School, orders took Mike and me different ways, as orders do, but those intense months still inform our lives as nothing else could. One hears drivel about a stupid song or a stupid concert or a stupid celebrity “defining a generation,” but anyone so weak and so facile as to believe that deserves to be defined. During Woodstock a few of us on the other side of the world were also camped out in the woods and fields; our campout didn’t define us and we still refuse to be defined.

But this is a Christmas story, so let us put out the cigarettes and get to our feet: in our first Christmas in the Navy Mike and I and 97 other guys were still in ‘A’ School but were given the day off. We were all homesick, but there was nothing for it. Mike-the-Lutheran, Bill-the-Catholic, and I got up early, even though for once we didn’t have to – and that annoying, scratchy record of “Reveille” blasting through speakers on other mornings was happily silent for Christmas - and on a cool, misty morning walked down the hill and into town for early Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

And that was good, because not many of the guys in Viet-Nam would have had a Christmas morning service of any kind.

After Mass we found a hole-in-the-wall café’ with cookery-steamy plate-glass windows and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.

And that was good, because not any of the guys in Viet-Nam would have had fresh eggs and fresh milk on Christmas morning; a great many of them had to feast out of a can.

And then we walked for hours in Balboa Park – at $96 a month you find the free entertainment - and the mist blew out to sea and the sun came out.

And that was very good, because there was no fear of land mines buried in the grass in the park.

And because our expectations had been very low, that Christmas was a very happy one indeed. Christmas is where you find it.

And, anyway, my father spent the Christmas of 1944 in the snow outside Bastogne; San Diego was a much better deal.

This Christmas we pray – and we must really do so, not just say the words carelessly - for our young men and women in the desert. Some of them are Marines and Navy Corpsmen (the desert Corpsmen who survive will, again, come home to be told by the ill-informed how lucky they were to have been on a ship and away from the fighting). Some of America’s best will be close enough to an airfield to enjoy a real Christmas meal shipped in (if the lovers of peace out among the rocks don’t blow up the plane or helicopter); others will spoon mysterious glop from a can or pouch with a little sand, smoke, and gun oil for dressing, and maybe the downwind stench from the latrines to serve as the odor of sanctity.

Other postings and operations and ships around the world are a little safer than patrolling in the danger, dung, and dirt of Whosedumbideawasthisstan this Christmas, but those assignments are no less lonely for young soldiers away from home for the first time and for older soldiers away from home yet again. A 19-year-old from Minnesota standing the mid-watch won’t find Christmas in Fort Hood to be very Normal Rockwell-ish, and another 19-year-old posted to some air base on the Arctic Circle might not be able to spare a moment to appreciate the full Christmas moon while de-icing a jet about to launch. Other 19-year-olds deep inside an on-station submarine that won’t surface for three months can’t look at the moon or even listen to the radio.

But Christmas is where you find it, and we can expect that our innovative youth will somehow find a way of making the most of it, some by sharing their Christmas meal with children who are programmed to hate them. Certain events 2,000 years ago also began in a cold desert with two young people far away from home because of government orders, and that eventually worked out fine.

God bless our sailors, Marines, soldiers, Coast Guard, and airmen everywhere this Christmas.

-30-

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Rosary

Advent Rosary

Dark Advent is a silent waiting time
When autumn chills into pale, year-end days
And joy seems smothered by hard-frosting rime:
Cold is the debt that spring to winter pays

The seasons link to seasons in a chain,
The chain of being that links, also, our souls,
Seasons and souls, not always without pain:
Summer’s wild lightning falls and thunder rolls.

Linked to us too, rose by mystical rose,
This holy Advent is Our Lady’s Grace
To us who wait in exile sad; she knows
Where souls and seasons sing, the Night, the Place.

Seasons and souls, linked to days dreary-dim:
Follow them with roses to Bethlehem

Mack Hall
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

False Grit: The Remake of True Grit

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

False Grit

True Grit has been remade, and we true-as-blue-steel John Wayne fans are as apoplectic as Yosemite Sam on a bad-moustache day. Does a composer remake Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg? Does an artist remake Gainsborough’s Blue Boy? Does a photographer remake Ansel Adams’ Moonrise? Does a writer remake Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty?”

No, no, and (Newark, New Jersey) no.

A contemporary businessman remaking a great film is no more an artist than a child with a paint-by-numbers set. The child, at least, can plead youth and innocence and delight in messing up the living-room floor. The adult cannot plead innocence; he is no artist but rather a moral and aesthetic dwarf attempting to delude the customers that he is a reincarnation of Hal Wallis, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway, or Michael Curtiz.

Given the cliches’ of contemporary movies we know some of the ways this revisionist pastiche of True Grit will be constructed:

1. Interior shots will be sepia-toned and will feature harsh shadows and window light streaming through dust. The convention now is that the insides of houses and offices and courtrooms in the past were all dusty and sepia-toned. Dusty sepia interiors are like, y’know, artsy, and, like, existential, and, like, stuff.

2. The screen will be polluted with the agony of computer graphics instead of honest filmmaking.

3. At some point someone will perform a slo-mo Ninja whirly-through-the-air thing.

4. If Chin Le is in the remake he will not be referred to as a “Chinaman” and will not be a fussy landlord and owner of a general store but rather a stereotypical sage mystic who spends much of the time being spiritual and working on his PhD.

5. Judge Walker will probably be a woman wearing a red power blazer.

What might the looters remake next?

Mary Queen of Scots with Miley Cyrus as Mary and Justin Bieber as Bothwell.

A Man for All Seasons with Mel Gibson as St. Thomas More. During the protracted execution scene the saint’s head falls in slo-slo-mo with lots and lots of blood sloshing everywhere. Julian Assange is the sniveling, treacherous Common Man. More’s daughter Margaret finds peace and harmony in a Zen Buddhist temple with a guru named Shawn while working on her PhD.

Casablanca starring Woody Allen as Rick and Lindsay Lohan as Ilsa. Stone Cold Steve Austin is Major Strasse. Sam (RuPaul) is a sage mystic who spends much of the time being spiritual and working on his PhD.

The Great Escape – the commandant is played by a George Bush impersonator who says “Zis iss a new camp, y’all.” Werner the Ferret is working on his PhD.

The Sound of Music with Oprah Winfrey as Maria. Maria shuffles the seven children off to perpetual daycare, has herself ordained a wymynpriest by Master Bishop Phil, and become a wise spiritual mother working on her PhD. Children’s scenes directed by Roman Polanski.

Becket – Sean Penn is Henry II and Alec Baldwin is Thomas Becket. Al Gore has a cameo as the King of France.

In Which We Serve – The crew of HMS Torin discard all class differences, form a sailors’ soviet, issue a manifesto about global warming, shoot the captain, and flee to Leningrad, where Stalin (charming newcomer Helen Thomas in her breakout role) gives them all medals. Shorty was working on his PhD but gave it up because that would have made him a class enemy.

The 39th Parallel – Villainous Republicans flee across Canada after their global-warming nuclear submarine, the USS EvilBush, on a secret mission to steal all of Canada’s fresh water, is sunk by Rosie O’Donnell flying the long-hidden Avro Arrow.

Lassie Come Home, starring Michael Vick.

Oh, Hollywood, “in what unhappy landscape of disaster did you lose your way?” (Thomas Merton)

-30

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Religious Vocations

In all of East Texas there are perhaps ten men who have not been called to the Christian ministry, a record matched only in certain counties in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Black Friday -- News from the Front

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Black Friday – News from the Front

Once upon a time holidays did not feature casualty lists or after-action reports. The most common complaint about Christmas (even then a priest or minister speaking of Advent was truly a vox clamantis in deserto) was that it was no longer Christmas at all but rather a secularized shopping racket, more a product of advertising rather than of God’s mercy.

Christmas shopping was accomplished among crowds, but the crowds were happy ones and the Christmas lights in the shops and along the streets brightened the early winter fully as well as the treats and sweets and happy anticipation of largesse under the tree on Christmas morning. Although we all tend to view our childhood days through the misty eyes of flawed remembrance, I really do not think that our parents or grandparents ever considered the possibility of being shot, stabbed, bombed, or trampled to death while Christmas shopping.

For those few eccentrics who attended divine services on Christmas the worst fear was that the pastor’s sermon connecting an obscure verse in Leviticus with the Christmas narrative in St. Luke and finally summing up with something by Oliver Goldsmith would yawn on for too long. The possibility of being shot, stabbed, or bombed in church was as unthinkable as being shot, stabbed, or bombed at the toy train display in Sears.

In those debit card-innocent times the Friday after Thanksgiving was, well, Friday, with leftovers on the table and football games on the black-and-white for the old folks (geezers in their 30s), and real football in the leafy front yard for the kids. Now the day is cursed as Black Friday, the first day of something miscalled The Christmas Season (a reminder: the four weeks before the Feast of the Nativity is Advent; Christmas is the twelve days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Feast of the Epiphany), and aimless souls without families, values, a cultural heritage, or any sense line up obediently in the night-time not to worship the Child in a manger but to worship the acquisition of more possessions.

When the doors to the Temples of Stuff are opened – or broken down by the wild-eye faithful armed with credit and curses – on Unholy Friday the primitive urge to sacrifice one’s very self for shiny beads and plastic boxes that light up and make noise results in threats, violence, and even death.

In 1836 the federal forces under Santa Anna raised a red flag from San Fernando Church to tell the rebels in the Alamo that there would be no prisoners; I suppose now Santa Anna would send the same cruel message with a flag advertising 30% off.

Anne of Green Gables was delighted in her one Christmas gift, a new dress. She was also surprised; her foster parents were Presbyterians of the old school and did not keep Christmas. Indeed, Anne had little time to oooh and ahhh over her gift because she had to hurry to school on Christmas day. A 21st century Anne might backhand someone at the sales on Christmas afternoon.

Christian martyrs still suffer torture with hymns on their lips; should they instead sing “Shiny stuff, plastic junk, little boxes that light up and make noises, shoes made in slave-labor camps, divine big-screens, parking-lot robberies, shoplifting, cutting someone else’s trees, carrying pistols to the sales – all for You, O Holy Transient Stuff, all for You…?”

When Mr. Pickwick took the stagecoach to visit friends for Christmas, he carried with him, as C. S. Lewis reminds us, a codfish (BIG codfish; the driver had trouble finding space for it) for his hosts, not masses of discounted debris and certainly not a bomb.

I speak not to disprove (as Marc Antony might say) material goods; I like material goods: toys for the children, Christmas trees (and presents thereunder with my name on them!), Christmas dinner, overdosing on Christmas candy, coffee with family and friends in the wonderful peace in the afternoon – these are all very good.

Most people like Christmas, both the observant and the secular parts, but Christmas is not properly kept when casualty lists now seem as common as Christmas cards.

-30-

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Infallibility of Catholic Bloggers

Not even the most ego-driven Bishop of Rome in the Church's 2,000 year history ever claimed the all-encompassing infallibility of a too-common sort of more-Catholic-than-thou blogger. The Bishop of Rome's infallibility is sternly limited to matters of faith; the common, carping, cranky Catholic Keyboard Commando claims infallibility and even omniscience in faith, morals, sports, politics, war, cinema, art, literature, education, and journalism, and even in how sorry a job everyone else is doing in raising their children.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Heartbreak of Superfluous Jails

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Heartbreak of Superfluous Jails

Beaumont, Texas has an unused jail sitting in the middle of downtown, and no one seems quite sure what to do with it. An old jail cluttering up the place is a problem many of us share, but here are a few possible solutions just in time for the holidays:

Retirement home for TSA employees. Retired police officers are often allowed to keep their service weapons; perhaps TSA employees could face their golden years with their wands and rubber gloves from the good old days. Yes, sir, they’ll sure have some stories for their grandchildren.

Rent it to film studios for prison movies: “Caged Taxpayer Heat,” “Texas Cheerleader Murder-Moms in Chains,” “Texas Hacksaw Massacre,” “Escape from Beaumontraz,” and “Revenge of the Chess Nerds in Cell Block B” are a few titles for consideration.

Lease it out as the Jefferson County Bar and Grill. The bar would feature its patented martini, Shaken in Stir, and the grill would be located in an old interrogation room and specialize in Stool Pigeon en Brochette.

Sell it to B.I.S.D. for use as classrooms.

Convert the old jail to condominiums as the ultimate gated community.

Democratic Party headquarters.

Sell it to the Chinese government with no questions asked. Ignore those screams and gunshots in the darkness, folks. Oh, wait, that’s a typical night in Beaumont anyway.

A private prison for incarcerating whoever invented television reality shows.

A series of downscale boutiques for chains, leather goods, piercings, tattoos, and Nancy Drew books.

The Haunted Hoosegow for Halloween.

The new Motel He(ck).

An alternative daycare for those special occasions when little Timmy has not lived up to his full potential as a lifestyle accessory: “Don’t scream, Timmy; Mummy needs her hair and nails done at LaPretense Chez Elegancee’ Day Spa. I don’t care if you’re only three; it’s not all about you, darling, and the police made such a fuss when I leashed you to the front porch on my last mother’s day out. Yesterday.”

By-the-hour recording studio rentals for an authentic background to “Don’t Fence Me In,” “In the Tijuana Jail,” “Tom Dooley,” and other traditional folk songs about incarceration.

A geology museum called Jailhouse Rock.

A veterans’ home. Don’t boo, that’s about how the federal government treats veterans anyway.

A retro ambience-laden restaurant called The Greeneyed Handcuffery – bologna sandwiches on plain white bread slapped onto metal trays by sullen fellows with weeping tattoos at only $50 per guest. For another $10 you can have your picture taken wearing an orange jumpsuit.

B.E.T.T.E.R. and B.E.S.T. could stage grudge-match wrestling with Ford King Ranch pickup trucks as the prizes.

Finally, the old Jefferson County jail could be converted into a factory for making – wait for it – CELL ‘phones.

-30-

"The Vatican says..."

Any statement beginning with "The Vatican says..." is almost surely a thumping lie. The Vatican is a city-state; it doesn't say anything.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Government in Your Underwear

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Government in Your Underwear

Suppose that you were in World War II. Or perhaps in Korea, Lebanon, Viet-Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or some bleak air base along the Arctic circle, or hazarding yourself in a patrol plane or aboard a destroyer between here and Cuba during one of Kruschev and Castro’s giddier moments. Or suppose that you are an ordinary working American – and you surely are – who goes off to work most days. You pay your taxes, rake your leaves, and try to save enough to take the rug-rats to Disney World before they grow up. Your encounters with the awful majesty of the law are limited to a speeding ticket from Al Caldwell’s friend Officer Fatback.

Why, then, should you, before boarding an aircraft to take your kids on that long-promised adventure to Disney World, be forced to take off your shoes, empty your pockets, be zapped with nudity rays by blinking, hooting, beeping machines designed by Captain Nemo, raise your hands in surrender, and suffer the gropings of the Roderick Spodes of the Transportation Security Administration?

In sum, why is the ordinary American presumed by his own government to be the enemy?

Security on airplanes, trains, buses, and ships is not trivial matter in a time of war, and just now we cannot expect to board a vessel as blithely as folks did as recently as the 1970s. Even so, why are the OGPU assigned to make our transit secure so focused on humiliating Americans?

Not so long ago airport security apologetically looked through your carry-on bag and wished you a safe journey. Because of The Religion of Peace and their exploding panties security has become more intense, and rightly so, but why have TSA personnel become so hostile to the traveling public? Is freedom of movement a matter of suspicion?

Our democratically-elected government has, for our safety, forbidden us to travel with nail clippers, shampoo bottles, or one of those itty-bitty Swiss Army knives, and requires us to eat our airline meals – provided you can get one – with flimsy, brittle flatware. Our democratically-elected government has dictated that Americans cannot be trusted with nail clippers, shampoo, pocketknives, or even a usable fork and (eek!) knife.

We Americans who could once travel freely within the borders of our own country are now subjected to strange radiation from strange machines and fondling from strange people. And these strange people yell a great deal, slam our possessions around, and don’t wash between gropings.

Excuse me for asking, dear elected government, but shouldn’t the TSA be going after evil people instead of functional dinner forks and our grandmothers?

TSA and this family newspaper leave you with some random thoughts for this new age of luxury air travel:

Briefs? Or boxers?

When ink cartridges are outlawed, only outlaws will have ink cartridges.

When panties are outlawed, only outlaws will have panties.

America – love it or get nekkid on TSA tellyvision in order to leave it.

Fourth Amendment? What’s that?

Work harder – thousands of TSA functionaries depend on you to pay them to humiliate you and your children.

Show me your papers and your body parts, comrade.

Abandon dignity all ye who enter here.

Be nice to the TSA guy touchy-feely-ing your children; he’s going to choose your cell.

Keep your shirt on, pal – until Security Officer Igor lovingly tells you to take it off.

Don’t get your panties in a twist; the TSA will do that for you.

And if you’re boarding Aer Lingus – it’s a thong way to Tipperary.

-30-

The Government in Your Underwear

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Government in Your Underwear

Suppose that you were in World War II. Or perhaps in Korea, Lebanon, Viet-Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or some bleak air base along the Arctic circle, or hazarding yourself in a patrol plane or aboard a destroyer between here and Cuba during one of Kruschev and Castro’s giddier moments. Or suppose that you are an ordinary working American – and you surely are – who goes off to work most days. You pay your taxes, rake your leaves, and try to save enough to take the rug-rats to Disney World before they grow up. Your encounters with the awful majesty of the law are limited to a speeding ticket from Al Caldwell’s friend Officer Fatback.

Why, then, should you, before boarding an aircraft to take your kids on that long-promised adventure to Disney World, be forced to take off your shoes, empty your pockets, be zapped with nudity rays by blinking, hooting, beeping machines designed by Captain Nemo, raise your hands in surrender, and suffer the gropings of the Roderick Spodes of the Transportation Security Administration?

In sum, why is the ordinary American presumed by his own government to be the enemy?

Security on airplanes, trains, buses, and ships is not trivial matter in a time of war, and just now we cannot expect to board a vessel as blithely as folks did as recently as the 1970s. Even so, why are the OGPU assigned to make our transit secure so focused on humiliating Americans?

Not so long ago airport security apologetically looked through your carry-on bag and wished you a safe journey. Because of The Religion of Peace and their exploding panties security has become more intense, and rightly so, but why have TSA personnel become so hostile to the traveling public? Is freedom of movement a matter of suspicion?

Our democratically-elected government has, for our safety, forbidden us to travel with nail clippers, shampoo bottles, or one of those itty-bitty Swiss Army knives, and requires us to eat our airline meals – provided you can get one – with flimsy, brittle flatware. Our democratically-elected government has dictated that Americans cannot be trusted with nail clippers, shampoo, pocketknives, or even a usable fork and (eek!) knife.

We Americans who could once travel freely within the borders of our own country are now subjected to strange radiation from strange machines and fondling from strange people. And these strange people yell a great deal, slam our possessions around, and don’t wash between gropings.

Excuse me for asking, dear elected government, but shouldn’t the TSA be going after evil people instead of functional dinner forks and our grandmothers?

TSA and this family newspaper leave you with some random thoughts for this new age of luxury air travel:

Briefs? Or boxers?

When ink cartridges are outlawed, only outlaws will have ink cartridges.

When panties are outlawed, only outlaws will have panties.

America – love it or get nekkid on TSA tellyvision in order to leave it.

Fourth Amendment? What’s that?

Work harder – thousands of TSA functionaries depend on you to pay them to humiliate you and your children.

Show me your papers and your body parts, comrade.

Abandon dignity all ye who enter here.

Be nice to the TSA guy touchy-feely-ing your children; he’s going to choose your cell.

Keep your shirt on, pal – until Security Officer Igor lovingly tells you to take it off.

Don’t get your panties in a twist; the TSA will do that for you.

And if you’re boarding Aer Lingus – it’s a thong way to Tipperary.

-30-

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cleopatra in Rome

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Cleopatra in Rome

In 46 B.C. Cleopatra and her entourage of sycophants and slaves journeyed to Rome to make obeisance to the new dominant world power and to claim a husband. Cleo had given birth to Julius’ son, but Julius went back to Rome to arrange things so he could be acclaimed king. He had a wife in Rome, Calpurnia, and Cal probably wasn’t really happy about sharing her husband with a Macedonian-Egyptian love-goddess, even for state reasons. Women are like that.

Cleopatra co-ruled with her little brother, who was also her husband. The Ptolemys were like that. She later had him murdered. The Ptolemys were like that. Indeed, Cleopatra had any number of her family murdered. Yes, the Ptolemys were like that. Ptolemy family reunions must have resembled Bagdad on one of its more festive evenings.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, Cassius, Brutus, and other republicans did the Gensu thing to Julius, and so Cleo fled home to Egypt, where later she lived in domestic bliss for a while with Julius’ old pal Marc.

20th Century Fox’s 1963 film Cleopatra featured as its centerpiece Cleo’s entry into Rome with gazillions of slaves pulling the royal float in the form of a sphinx. Aboard were negligee-sort-of-clad girls adoring the putative incarnation of Isis, and servants and fan-wavers and security guards and lots of other of her folks putting on the Anubis for the Roman crowd. Cleo awed the Romans (but not Julius’s wife) with exotic displays, exotic dancers, and exotic animals, and her exotic self. This film scene alone was so expensive that it nearly put Fox into bankruptcy. Fox was financed by investors, however; the real thing over 2,000 years ago was financed by starving Egyptians suffering economic collapse and civil unrest back along the Nile.

Happily, in our more democratic time our elected leaders modestly regard themselves as mere mortals, equals among their fellow citizens. Our elected American leaders would never give offense to another nation by bringing along such a huge field-force that the trip would appear to be a colonial expedition among barbaric peoples in the shadows of the Hindu Kush rather than a state visit to a great and prosperous nation. Our leaders would never take the taxes of hard-working fellow-citizens in order to provide themselves and their retinues grotesquely expensive flying barges. Our leaders would never surround themselves with a Praetorian Guard for fear of their own fellow-citizens. Our of-the-people leaders, certainly our Congress, would never even dream of, say, appropriating military aircraft for the privileged use of themselves and their families.

No, no American would ever play the Romanov, the Ptolemy, or the Hohenzollern (say that five times really quickly).

As Alexander Hamilton said during a debate, “Here, sir, the people govern.” And, by cracky, he was right.

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Education for the 21st Century

Bubbles. #2 pencils. Bubbles. #2 pencils. If the greatest challenge to American youth is a blank bubble that needs shading with a #2 pencil, we've made them ready.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What's in Your Calendar?

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

What’s in Your Calendar?

Ipops and Blueberries are not a part of my life; small electronic gadgets look at me, sigh mournfully, and die lingeringly like small, made-in-China Isoldes. Larger electronics are more French; they will neither work nor go away. They take up space on my desk and make rude noises, but otherwise in true Gallic fashion often refuse to work.

Thus, I carry a pocket calendar provided by the nice folks at Balfour, and note appointments in it employing a pen. As with clocks with dials, this concept is pretty much unknown to anyone who doesn’t remember reading the casualty lists from Gettysburg.

Calendars reflect the dominant culture. For the ancient pagans and for farmers in all times a calendar is essential in anticipating the agricultural cycle. Those of us who grew up on farms (where our favorite reading was The Farmer-Stockman and Charles Dickens’ latest novel) remember how our parents planned planting, harvesting, milking, hunting, and gathering in almanacs and on feed-and-seed calendars.

The Church’s liturgical calendar also follows the natural cycles of the seasons, although unlike the pagan Romans the Church recognizes the beginning of the year with Advent, four weeks before Christmas.

Most calendars in use now are products of committees in climate-controlled offices in cities, far from forests and plowed fields, and with almost no references to Christianity or to nature.

The 31st day of October has now been established as something called Halloween, a corruption of the concept of the evening before the religious observance of All Saints. Some religious traditions for a long time recognized the day as Reformation Day, but now both Catholics and Protestants have pretty much ditched all references to the day in any religious context. Well, it’s nice that we can all get along in vapidity.

November 11th is Veterans’ Day in this country. The calendar reminds us that in Canada, marked with a C, this is Remembrance Day, ignoring the rest of the British Commonwealth. The day has also for some 1700 years been honored as St. Martin’s Day, and so Veterans’ Day fits nicely. St. Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who became a Christian and was martyred for the Faith. He is depicted as giving his warm cloak to a freezing beggar, and in this anticipated the generations of American and Canadian soldiers who have shared their food and clothing with the victims of tyrannies.

Advent, the four weeks of quiet anticipation of the Nativity, has been replaced with a psychic dysfunction miscalled the Christmas season, but the true Christmas seasons lasts from Christmas Day until the Feast of the Epiphany, the liturgical seasons again reflecting the natural cycle. Such does not appear in fashionable calendars which sport artificial attempts to replace the Faith and the seasons with artificial inventions, foreign intrusions, and outright lies, such as the fake holiday invented in 1966 by an F.B.I. informant.

The calendar tells us that the 30th of August is the end of Ramadan, ignoring the fact that it is the Christian feast day of St. Rose of Lima. The calendar marks the first of May as Labor Day in some countries, stolen from the feast day of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers. The modern concepts of Labor Day ignore any mention of God or St. Joseph.

The pillaging of the Christian calendar is certainly less violent than the actions of the Soviets and, oh, the religion of peace in dynamiting churches and shooting priests and ministers, but the intent, while more subtle, is no less sincere: the complete secularization and air-conditioning of the rhythm of our daily lives.

Even so, the seasons come and go as they always have, and cannot be changed by committees or by fashions or by disposable little plastic gadgets that light up ad make squeaky noises.

Now then, let us consider Linus and The Great Pumpkin.

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Stalin's Office

Did Stalin's office staff play "Secret Santa?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Coffee, Tea, or Justice?

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Coffee, Tea, or Justice?

Even though my favorite waitress owns her little café’ I always tip her anyway – I know she’s going to take that bit of money and do some good for others with it.

Waitresses in the corporate / franchise / world along the interstate don’t own their own cafes, though, and they’re not paid minimum wage.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (http://www.dol.gov/wb/faq26.htm), employees in occupations where tips are customary and who receive more than $30 (BIG money) a month in tips can legally be paid as little as $2.13 an hour.

How’s that for fair labor standards, eh?

Recently I breakfasted at a joint which used to belong to a national franchise who then sold it to another national franchise with the proviso that the employees got to keep their jobs. And the new franchise did keep the help – after reducing their wages.

The first change in the place was obvious – the nice lady who used to greet customers cheerfully had been replaced with two young persons who ignored customers sullenly. The cheerful former head waitress / greeter, a long-time employee, was relegated to the back and reduced in pay and status in gratitude for her years of loyal service.

Employers reasonably expect loyalty from employees, but shouldn’t that work both ways?

The fat boys on midday radio would no doubt airily suggest that the humiliated waitresses should find new jobs. How easy it is to say! But we can’t all be N.C.I.S. guys or Dr. House. Neither the President nor a long-haul trucker makes his own coffee, and the travelling public are no longer permitted to camp out, build a campfire, and discharge firearms at critters to cook up for supper. All of us dine out occasionally, and that means we don’t go to the café kitchen and help ourselves. Waiters and waitresses are a big part of our economy and our lives, and we show our respect for them by not paying them.

Some folks claim that the minimum wage is a bad idea. I dunno. I gather that the people who think the minimum wage should be abolished aren’t themselves on minimum wage. I do know that there are employers who would squeeze employees, not that metaphorical penny. But I really don’t know whether or not the minimum wage is a good idea.

But since this nation does in fact require a minimum wage under the law, why isn’t the law extended to all as mandated by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution? The fantasy that an employee’s tips will equal the minimum wage is mere speculation, and speculation is not justice.

A cute young waitress shorting out the pacemakers of well-to-do old men in a high-Euro restaurant may well draw a great deal in tips, but cute is not a career option; time terminates cute. To consider the tips-income of a very few waitresses in a very few expensive restaurants and clubs and then to suppose that such is the income of all waiters and waitresses is an inexcusable cruelty that even a 19th-century timber baron might find shabby.

How can it be that in the 21st century equal protection under the law is still denied to some American citizens?

The laborer is worth of his – or her – hire. The Alice or Flo or Vera or Belle or Jolene who brings you that hot, comforting cup of coffee in the middle of the night when you still have miles to go before you sleep (cf Robert Frost) is a real American who deserves a fair deal.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Prophet's New Car

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Prophet’s New Car

A Florida pastor has demanded that a New Jersey car dealer give him a new car for not burning a copy of the Koran. The curious bit is that the pastor may have a legal claim.

Brad Benson, who owns a car franchise in Brunswick (New Jersey, not Germany), has been very successful in working for a living, providing employment for others, and paying lots and lots of taxes. His car ads are famous for their whimsy – once he offered a free car to Saddamn Hussein if he (Saddamn, not Mr. Benson) would surrender. As Saddamn took his last walk a few years later he surely thought that he should have taken that car deal instead.

More recently Mr. Benson offered a new car to the pyromanic pastor of an Adjective Church and / or Outreach and / or Fellowship if the pastor would refrain from his announced plan of publicly Zippo-ing a copy of the Koran.

The minister hosts a set of moldy whiskers that look as if they had been packed in General Burnside’s suitcase in 1865, stored in an attic, and pulled out only recently for a masquerade. The minister may perhaps be striving for a stern, intimidating Old Testament appearance but this works only if any Old Testament figure looked like a querulous old rescue rabbit in need of dentures. Even so, he (the pastor, not an Old Testament figure) managed to trouble the councils of our wise and powerful leaders.

The President appealed to Brother Whiskers on television not to flick his Bic, and a general telephoned the thundering profit – um, prophet – asking the hothead to refrain from the flame lest American soldiers be endangered, as if they were not already in danger anyway.

There is no mention of presidents or generals telephoning Mr. Benson or any of his many employees to thank them for working hard and paying taxes. But perhaps presidents or generals were busy that day calling you and thanking you for your honest work and your service to America instead of fanning the flaming ego of an unhappy man who missed his true vocation as a minor character in Tobacco Road.

In the event the matchless Brother Bonfire did not combust a copy of the Koran but apparently was not aware of Mr. Benson’s offer of a new set of wheels until weeks later. And now, retroactively, he demands that free car. After all, this is what Moses or Habakkuk would do. The posturing pastor now says he’s going to give the car to abused Moslem women, even though Moslem women are not permitted by their menfolk to drive.

Mr. Benson, whose gag went south (to Florida, actually), is going to give Frater Firebug a new car, a $15,000 import, and be rid of the nuisance (the arsonist, not the automobile).

Given this historic precedent, I pledge not to burn the Jack Chick Catholics-Are-Going-To-(Newark) toilet paper someone left on my desk if my demands are met:

1. I demand a personal telephone call from an admiral or general begging me not to burn the Jack Chick booklet.
2. I demand a new car in return for not burning this fine specimen of Jack Chick’s theology. Oh, yeah, sure, I’ll donate the car to a worthy cause. Sure. You bet.

Gentle reader, you could do the same. One of my books, A Liturgy for the Emperor, is for sale through Amazon.com and Lulu.com; the other, Christmas in the Summer Country, is available only through Lulu.com. After coaxing a few pals to ordain you a reverend or something you could buy my books and then demand that someone important reward you for not burning them.

Don’t ask me; I haven’t made enough on my books to buy more than a box or two of matches.

This clerical hostage-taking of a book may not be what Isaiah or St. Paul would have done, but Chaucer’s Pardoner and Summoner would be proud – and would want a cut of the take.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Red Menace

I'm especially proud of the loopy run-on sentence in the third-to-last paragraph. It's not "Who's on First" but, by golly, I'm proud of it.

Mack Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

The Red Menace

In the early 1980s the red power blazer became a cliché for young professional women, succeeding the power pantsuit of the 1960s and the dark-blue, knee-length power suit of the 1970s. To encounter a klaven of power-women was to think that one had fallen in with a reunion of Hessian mercenaries exchanging jolly reminiscences of torching New England farms during the Revolution.

A difference is that Hessian mercenaries didn’t always execute their prisoners.

After a hiatus the red power blazer is back, but for Republican women only, and for the Republican men, red power ties. Democratic men wear blue power ties, and so now our political parties are nicely color-coordinated, stupiding-down an already pretty low process of party affiliation.

Back in th’ day (it’s never “back in th’ night,” is it) children were coached to cockatoo certain phrases: “Our people good Democrats” or “Our people good Republicans.” And the young obedientiaries grew up to vote as their parents had trained them in youth. Raising a right-thinking child was easy enough then, and is even easier now in this post-videocassette world: “Me vote Red” or “Me vote Blue.” In the past critical thinking about party labels was simply unfashionable; now it is hardly even possible. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. That’s all we need to know, comrades.

Party colors are not new; indeed, they’re ancient. In Byzantium the two conflicting parties were the Blues and the Greens, predicated on racing colors. The Blues and the Greens took turns installing and then murdering emperors, usually in a public and grotesque fashion, but beyond that no one seems to know what either party actually stood for except for some remarkable riots that make Northern Ireland look like a Sunday school.

A generation ago an American reporter on the streets of Belfast was commanded “You’ll be takin’ that tie off, mister.” I forget if he was wearing a green tie or a red tie; up until that moment the reporter had thought it simply a nice tie, but he had forgotten the political code of colors in Belfast.

And now this potentially violent silliness of color codes infects the USA. The question is now not “Am I a spring? Or an autumn?” but rather “Am I a good party comrade?”

Some attribute the identification of red with Republicans and blue with Democrats to Tim Russert of happy memory, who in all innocence employed the colors for convenience on maps during the presidential election of 2000, and this accident became a habit. Like the bumper stickers of past elections the red and blue can’t be scraped away.

Thus, when you see men or women on the telescreen wearing red ties or red blazers you immediately tag then as Republicans, either to be obeyed without actually listening to anything they say or to be dismissed without actually listening to anything they say.

Similarly, otherwise identical mouthpieces in blue on the Sunday morning babblings are Democrats, similarly to be stereotyped.

Curiously, red is the Conservative color (or colour) in English politics and historically of Communists everywhere. For any American with some sense of history the association of red and Republicans-with-a-capital-R must always be an irony. This does not obtain with small-r republicans who in other countries are socialists and so tend to be red already. In sum, Capital-R Republicans in America are Tories who in other countries would be red but Capital-R Republicans used to hate red and surely preferred blue although they now wear red, while small-r republicans are socialists and red and surely wouldn’t wear blue, except that we don’t have small-r republicans (who are red) in this country because we have Democrats who are blue, not red, but we do have Capital-R Republicans who are red, not blue, while other countries don’t have Capital-R Republicans at all and so color is not an issue.

Is everyone clear on all that?

Now, then, where’s my red sweater for the next football game?

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love and the Ascending Aorta

Mack Hall

Mhall46184@aol.com

Love and the Ascending Aorta

The other day I saw some pink ladies advertising along a street. They were waving signs, one of which read something to the effect of “If You (heart) (puerile slang for a certain body part), Donate!”

What times we live in, when grown women employ in public the vocabulary of the junior-high locker room.

Let us, for the sake of the gentle readership of this excellent newspaper, say that the endangered body part was the ascending aorta. It wasn’t, of course, and naughty little boys don’t snicker and giggle at slang expressions about the ascending aorta. One does not hear “Wow, think what her ascending aorta must be like – man, I can almost palpate the palpitations of her atrial fibrillation now!”

“Yeah, dude, her ascending aorta, like, y’know, gets me so into ventrical tachycardia!”

However, for the sake of discussion let the ascending aorta serve as our Maltese Chickadee.

No one is as supportive of ascending aortas as I. Sometimes friends and even strangers approach me to ask what I think of ascending aortas, and I always express my enthusiastic approbation. Ascending aortas are nifty, and I think everyone ought to have one or two of them. I’m even thinking of sporting a little lapel pin, a tiny little ascending aorta with a happy face.

However, no appeals for money have ever been the sequelae to conversations I’ve had with folks – and I know you have too – about merry little ascending aortas: “You like healthy ascending aortas, Mr. H? Why, so do I. Give me some money and I’ll see to it that there are healthier ascending aortas in the world.”

In sum and in short and all in all and at the end of the day the bottom line is that when the skinny lady sings I see no reason to stop my car in a busy street in order to give money to complete strangers, no matter how pink they are, simply because they maintain that this act will somehow make the world a better place for ascending aortas.

Who says my dollar will provide a meal or something for an ascending aorta? Who? If someone gives money, someone is receiving money. And who is that receiver? Is there some starving, bespectacled scientist down to his last test-tube and his last packet of Ramen noodles in some FEMA trailer laboratory, a starving, bespectacled scientist just on the cuspidor or bicuspid or something of discovering a cure for honey-glazed ascending aortas, a starving, bespectacled scientist to whom the beggars will happily fly at the end of the day with their salvific buckets of healing money for the rectification of faulty ascending aortas?

Another question is this: when did we become a nation of beggars?

The ascending aorta ladies were begging perhaps up the road from the safe-graduation beggars (because, as we all know, putting young people into the street is so safe for them, and having them beg teaches them such valuable life-lessons) and maybe down the road from the send-my-something-team-to-the-state-championship-something-playoffs-in-some-other-city beggars.

Once upon a time, in a quaint ye olde USA when the world trembled at the might of our washers and dryers, Boy Scouts washed one’s windshield for quarters safely off the road, cheerleaders washed the rest of the car safely in a church parking lot, the Sunday school / CCD class safely peddled homemade cakes after church / Mass, and the marching band sold muffins safely in front of the grocery store. The Boy Scouts might have scratched the car’s windshield, the cheerleaders might have scratched the car’s paint, the band’s muffins might have scratched the lining of one’s stomach, and the Sunday school / CCD cakes – well, actually, those were quite good -- but the point is that the young’uns’ parents and sponsors required their charges to practice work, not beggary.

More importantly, parents taught their children to stay away from the street lest they get run over or abducted. You might say those parents had a heart, ascending aorta and all.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday Morning in the Bookstore

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Saturday Morning in the Bookstore

Why are there now so many books of lists of ten things we must do before we die? Why not nine, or eleven? And why should pay someone for a list of experiences he says you and I must fulfill before we shuffle off what Shakespeare is pleased to call this mortal coil? Will my life be meaningless if I don’t jump out of an airplane over Scotland, see a famous statue in a Buddhist temple in Bangladesh, eat fried snake in Singapore, bicycle through Kenya, visit some snaky island off Honduras, or flush a certain Czarist toilet in St. Petersburg?

The history magazines are mostly about war. One magazine I perused featured a photograph of a Nazi general about to be executed in Italy in December of 1945. He looks distressed. Perhaps his “Top Ten Things to Do Before I Die” list was incomplete: “#9 – murder more Italian and American prisoners.”

History magazines sometimes publish articles about what a nice lad General Rommel was, a worthy opponent and all that (stuff), and kind to kittens and children. No, it just won’t do. Rommel was a Nazi general. His career choice was to travel to other countries and then destroy them, killing lots of people while doing so. But then, hey, maybe he was just trying to find himself.

A Nazi connection sells books – any formula-plotted thriller will sell if a big ol’ swishtika adorns the cover. Such stories always begin on a dark, narrow, bleak, foggy, smells-of-cooking-cabbage, wartime London street where our hero (1) stumbles across a corpse bearing Secret Papers, and then (2) finds his way to an old building which discreetly houses a Special Branch of MI5, MI6, MI6 1/2,or MI7 which is more Special Branchy than any other Special Branch, and in which a mysterious Colonel Ponsonby-Snitt rules over a mysterious league of mysterious functionaries who hold the mysterious key – there’s always a key, real or metaphorical – which is going to win the war against jolly Rommel.

Zombies and vampires – I don’t get these genres at all. If someone wants blood, let him order a steak, rare. One reads in the news that some teens – obviously not the smart ones – are in imitation of vampire stories biting each other and swapping blood and, hence, bacteria and viruses. Were they not listening to parental teachings about basic hygiene and the myriads of blood-borne diseases? Well, no. Over in the magazine section one can find magazines devoted to tattoos and piercings. The book retailer could efficiently combine the books on zombies, vampires, tattoos, and piercings into one category: Disfigurement and Disease.

Books about the Tudors, especially Tudor queens and girlfriends, are still big. A nice side-effect is that readers also learn a little history.

Eat / Pray / Love / Drink / Vomit – How many women who work at the fast-food joint or at Big Box get to leave all behind and spend a year in Italy discovering themselves? Heck, most folks consider themselves lucky if they can take the kids to Disney once or twice before the little boogers grow up.

A recent fashion are books bearing covers of vapid-looking girls wearing yarmulkes with strings hanging down from them – one infers that these books, and they are Legion, are about a beautiful but misunderstood Hutterite / Amish / Mennonite girl who finds both Jesus and true love in a buggy while a modest church steeple and some perfect trees pose picturesquely in the background. But I sure wouldn’t know, and never will.

Detective stories – Agatha Christie is still the best. Hercule Poirot is my hero. Well, okay, him, John Wayne, Sergeant Schultz, and Bob Newhart.

Poetry – just keep moving; nothin’ to read here. That which now passes for poetry is pretty much me, me, me, my, my, my in content and free verse (which is a contradiction) in non-structure tricked out with the shabbiest sort of rhetorical bling. If the poet doesn’t dot the i he must be really cool, right? There is neither passion nor intellect nor aesthetics in contemporary poetry, only squalid self-pity flung like a temper-tantrum onto the page.

Westerns – the selection is smaller than it used to be. A current trend is to publish the books that were made into films, which is a great idea. Anyone who thinks John Wayne was one-dimensional has never seen The Searchers, John Ford’s brilliant examination of racism and redemption.

Harry Potter appears to be hiding, at least until the next movie comes out. The first book in the series was mildly interesting, but then the next forty or fifty were but the first book tiresomely recycled – cute kids scream at each other and then fight Him / He Who Must Not Be Named and then some minor character gets killed and then the cute kids reconcile with teary eyes and we learn about friendship being The Most Important Thing. Yawn.

Time for coffee.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guitars

Guitars -- for those special fireside evenings when ordinary kindling just won't do.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

For a Football Player Dying Young

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

In the Light

All of us must die; few of us are permitted to die while doing exactly what we should be doing.

There are no easy answers to the eternal why of death. We mourn those who die in the autumn of their lives; we mourn even more those who die in their springtime. Our intellects tell us that death is the natural progression of living; our hearts, in pain, tell us that the intellect’s understanding is inadequate.

Reggie Garrett, as young and proud as one of Beowulf’s warriors, sweat-stained in his West Orange-Stark uniform, died clean and honest and good. He threw a touchdown pass to a longtime friend, trotted off the field to the applause of his teammates, and died.

For the rest of their lives a few good men will speak a little, yes, of their own time on the field, but more often they will say, with great pride, “I played football with Reggie Garrett.”

For high school football is a clean game, clean and honest and good, a celebration of young manhood at the peak of strength and speed and skill. Football is played in the light, sometimes beneath God’s sun and sometimes under the electric lights which push the darkness away for the sake of a fair field for manly sport. Football is played by teams of youths of all sorts of backgrounds who have learned to live and work and play together. Football, always in the light, is happily antithetical to the dark broodings of a misanthrope lurking alone in a dark room hugging his dark resentments to himself in dark echoes of Grendel.

And no doubt there was some fat, cholesterol-sodden old poop in the bleachers popping off about how the pass and the catch could have been done better, but he is irrelevant. The only thing wrong with football is not football itself but with the flawless sideline quarterbacks who are oh, so quarterbackier than the young men who actually play the game.

Football is for the young athlete, not for the old critic.

Reggie did not die in the dark; he did not die watching television or idling on a street corner or doing something wrong or feeling sorry for himself. He died in the light, doing what was right, doing something he loved and doing it very well, glorious in his young manhood.

Reggie, an honor student, was to attend the University of Texas and study architecture. One imagines that the buildings he would have designed would have been filled with light.

“Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.”

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Door Prizes at the Last Supper

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Door Prizes at the Last Supper

This year a church (let us call it St. Waycool’s) in a certain university town was pleased to begin the academic term by asking the students attending Mass to bring their cell ‘phones. The reason was not given because, according to the youth minister’s ‘blog, “the intrigue is half the fun.”

Oh, yeah, the Gospel and the Eucharist are Laff Riots. Perhaps what Jesus really says at every celebration of Holy Communion is “Do this in memory of Me – and bring your electronic toys.”

The goal was to coax students to register in the college parish. Now this part was good – the light bill must be paid and the roof repaired and the floors mopped, and all that costs money. People should support the church they attend appropriate to their means. Further, as the youth minister said, young people away from home for the first time have probably never thought of registering in a parish because, as with paying car notes, their parents did that.

All right, then, the homilist could have explained this and probably without a puppet ministry because, after all, the temporary parishioners are university students and can understand, like, y’know, thoughts and big words and stuff. And let the people say “existential.”

Sadly, some church functionaries appear to perceive any sort of outreach, even to university students and other adults, as a junior high experience.

After the homily and before the Eucharist the celebrant at each Mass had the participants whup out their cell ‘phones. Now, now, we mustn’t cling to the old ways, right? No doubt a parish priest in the early 19th century required his parishioners to take out their newest technology, the steel pen, and script their registrations then and there. And perhaps later in the century another priest asked the faithful to bring their wind-up gramophones to Mass. And then came the fruits of Vatican II: eight-track tapes, the Sony Walkman, and the Palm Pilot.

Anyway, at this point two functionaries at St. Waycool’s held up, smack in front of the altar and the crucifix (altar, crucifix – soooo last week), a large banner – what? No Power Point? – instructing the faithful how to report themselves to the parish authorities electronically.

The youth minister on his ‘blog proudly tapped out that this novelty “has never been tried in any other church.”

Wow! After 2,000 years the liturgy is at last enriched by lock-step text-messaging. All the saints and martyrs cry out with joy: “Can you hear me now? How many bars ya got?”

But wait – there’s more! Door prizes! If the faithful obediently texted during Mass and then obediently responded to an email on the following Tuesday they were automatically eligible for one of the following door prizes:

One Apple Ipod.
Five students got to lunch with the football coach.
Five students got to lunch with the basketball coach.
Twenty gift certificates.

Man, if only Padre Pio or Mother Theresa had been so cool!

Clearly the filter through which Christians perceive history must be upgraded because of the epiphany of electronic gadgetry:

The Magi followed their GPS devices (“Recalculating…”), not the Star.
St. Paul lost his signal on the road to Damascus.
“Suffer the little children to come unto me – after they register.”
St. Thomas More was beheaded for claiming his cell ‘phone signal was clearer than King Henry’s.
The Disciples in the photoshopped DaVinci’s Last Supper don’t hear Jesus because they’re all yakking into their cell ‘phones.
St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for listening to The Voices through a tin cricket in her ear.
The Great Schism of 1170 was due to a rift between Cingular and AT&T users.
Moses received the Commandments via voicemail.
Jesus said to Peter, “If you love Me, tweet My sheep.”
The Centurion at the Crucifixion cried out, “Truly this was the Son of Verizon!”

At St. WayCool’s on that unhappy Sunday there was surely a faithful remnant of young men and women who bravely and stubbornly kept their cell ‘phones pocketed or pursed, and refused to desecrate the liturgy with this mummery. They won’t receive a gift certificate to Kitchen, Bed, Outhouse ‘N’ Stuff, but they won’t need it. They’ve got much, much more.

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The Green Martyrdom

One wonders if any martyr tortured to death ever cried as loudly as does a certain bishop who does not receive the veneration and money he feels are his due.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"I'm learning shoemaking..."

"I'm learning shoemaking and poetry, all at the same time."

-- David in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Random Acts of Thinkfulness

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Random Acts of Thinkfulness

A great mystery of our time – are American children too fat, or are they starving? One reads an outraged writer’s thesis, complete with statistics, that American children are fat, and so their school cafeterias must be beaten into obedience. But then another writer, with equal anger and another catalogue of stats, declares with the authority of Mount Sinai that American children are starving, and again the school cafeteria (it’s always the school cafeteria’s fault) must be remade in the commentator’s image.

Stop.

In the past few weeks y’r ‘umble scrivener re-read Plato’s Phaedo (which is not Fido), Apologia, Crito, and Symposium. The real philosophical question is why the Athenian state didn’t off Socrates long before.

Snap.

Doctors. So many doctors. No, not M.D.s; we need more of them: I refer to all the other folks who are now doctors of this and that occupation which needed not doctors before. Will it soon be a matter that everyone is a doctor? Heck, I had trouble finishing high school. And now all the reverends are becoming doctors, too, and I have read of one fellow who is a Reverend Doctor Master Bishop. I sure wish I were that enlightened.

Click.

One still hears of those who want to make the world a better place. What if the world doesn’t want to be re-made? And isn’t it rather judgmental for some tweeter to find the world lacking without first having gotten a job?

Go.

I watched a young fellow decant from a city bus while obediently wearing the complete dress code as dictated to him by popular culture: bulbous plasticky shoes, those awful kneepants, billowing fake athletic shirt, and a backward baseball cap with an ironed-flat brim. In his hand he bore a cell ‘phone, and his head was festooned with wiring so he could receive his instructions.

He fled the immediate area of the bus with a practiced insouciance but also with some speed, for despite all his ornamental cool, the unhappy and decidedly uncool fact remained: he had arrived by city bus, and desperately did not want to be seen doing so.

Whirrrr.

Electronic books – the appeal is there, especially while traveling. You can carry your business reading, your travel books, and your Hercule Poirot novel, plus hundreds of other books, all within one little plastic case. Also, you own the books you buy for downloading. When your little machine breaks, as it will, you can buy another one and get all your books back.

Still, it’s a gadget, a successor to the cassette tape, the VCR, and the Polaroid. It’s not actually a book, and you can’t recharge it with a kerosene lamp during a hurricane. You can’t use your pen to argue with the writer, and your grandchildren won’t turn the same pages you did and delight in your marginalia.

Buzzzzzzz.

Several Saturdays ago two rival demagogues (Webster’s New Collegiate, demagogue – “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power”), as jealous of each other as the final two beauties competing for the crown of Miss Watermelon Festival, hosted rival body-counts in the nation’s capital.

Demagogues are free to gogue, and people living under the protection of the Constitution are free to lemming-up in doe-eyed adoration of the latest Dear Leader, but why would they want to?

When the competing golden-calf sessions were over, the two groups happened to encounter each other on the fringes (no pun). The folks involved apparently greeted each other courteously and wished each other well, demonstrating much more dignity than their masters. And, truly, Americans are much better off without masters.

-30-

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Plato and His Perhaps Imaginary Friend Socrates

In the past few weeks I have re-read Apologia, Crito, Phaedo, and The Symposium. I marvel that the Athenian state did not possess the good sense to poison Socrates earlier.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ham and Lima Beans and Inspiration

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Ham and Lima Beans and Inspiration

Motivational / inspirational speakers often employ war metaphors and quote admirals and generals. That’s a good sign that their war experience is pretty much limited to watching The Hitler Channel and reading the memoirs of the beribboned and famous. And then there’s the matter of the ham and lima beans barking in the night-time.

What if motivational speakers quoted enlisted men instead of generals? Here are some original sources for them for their next speeches. N.B.: although the wording may not be precise, almost none of this, except for the “be inspired” motif, is fictional.

“All ready for night patrol. Ain’t the C.O. coming?”
“Naw, he’s in his air-conditioned bedroom – I mean, the radio room – practicing his these-eyes-have-seen-it-all stare for his election speeches after the war.”
“He’s inspiring.”

“The FNG got dinged real bad. Anyone told the lieutenant?”
“Yeah, he and the C.O. are in the command bunker writing each other citations for medals.”
“Oh, yeah, they’re inspiring.”

“That swing ship brought the first mail we’ve had in two weeks – where is it?”
“It’s coming; the officers are getting theirs first.”
“Officers inspire me.”

“That idiot C.O. sat in the bunker and radioed conflicting orders all last night. If not for the Chief none of us would have gotten out of that mess alive. Why isn’t the Chief in charge since he knows what he’s doing?”
“’Cause the C.O.’s got a college degree and the Chief ain’t.”
“Oh, well, that’s inspiring.”

“Chief, what’s PTSD?”
“That’s something for officers and for civilians back home; you ain’t entitled. Now get them bullet holes patched and this boat washed down.”
“Okay, Chief.”
“And be inspired, son, be inspired.”

“Get the stand-down crews up. Night patrol’s coming in early. One boat’s burning and being towed. Five dead, a bunch wounded. Man, the generals and admirals in Saigon and D.C. will sure get a bunch of medals for this.”
“I’m inspired.”

“Bubba, what did you do before you joined up?”
“Bathed. Didn’t cuss as much. Didn’t know how popular ham-and-lima beans was.”
“Ham-and-lima-beans inspire me.”

“I got paid more as a sack boy back home than I do here in Cambodia makin’ th’ world safe for democracy and stuff.”
“Inspiring.”

“Say, who are those pretty fellows in the nice new uniforms funnin’ with the C.O.?”
“Those are some famous reporters. They’re going out with us for a few hours to take pictures and talk into their recorders. They’ll be back for the cocktail hour in their hotel in Saigon tonight and back in the states in a couple of days to get journalism awards for talking about how rough it is out here.”
“I’m so inspired.”

“I tossed a c-rat can of ham-and-lima beans over the perimeter to some hungry Vietnamese kids.”
“Yeah?”
“They tossed it back.”
“I ain’t that hungry either. But I’m sure inspired.”

“Do officers ever have to eat ham-and-lima beans?”
“I saw one do it once, but he was just drunk and showin’ off. That was after he ate a cockroach.”
“Most inspiring.”

“Say, whose bright idea was it to make so many c-rations out of ham-and-lima beans?”
“Probably Ho Chi Minh’s.”
“Ah! He was inspired!”

“Why are these boats made out of plastic?”
“Cheap to repair.”
“Are we cheap to repair?”
“Just be inspired, sailor, just be inspired.”

“Man, you don’t want to be captured alive by the V.C.”
“Why? They gonna make me eat ham-and-lima beans?”
“Ain’t you inspired yet?”

-30-

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Review of Paul I. Wellman's THE FEMALE

The Female by Paul I. Wellman. Wellman is remembered for his western history and western fiction, including The Comancheros, the basis for one of the best Saturday matinee John Wayne films.

The Female is a stab-'em-up, though, not a shoot-'em-up, a fictional bio of Empress Theodora, and it is a curious book much in need of editing. The first third or so is quite pornographic, unnecessarily so -- I'm not, not, not being prissy; there is just no need of page after page of and-then-she-dropped-the-gauzy-whatever-she-was-wearing-and-was-completely-you-know-what, and it drags the plot. After Theodora finds her way to then-Prince Justinian's bed by a clunky plot device the narrative does move faster, esp. in the matter of the Nike / Nika riots. Overall, Wellman clearly did a thorough job of researching Constantinople, but then didn't seem to know what to do with the material.

Wellman's hostility to any form of organized religion is another problem; he dismisses Orthodoxy / Catholicism (this is long before the Schism, remember) as contemptuously as he does Monophysitism. He also -- and this is most curious -- despises all Byzantines of all classes, and, indeed, doesn't seem to like anyone except the person of Theodora herself. Justinian is rendered first as a good, solid man, and then illogically reduced to a useless religious fanatic helplessly wringing his hands. One can conclude that Wellman constructed a Theodora who is nothing more than a somewhat twisted sexual and philosophical fantasy, and makes what could have been an entertaining and useful fiction into something rather creepy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coffins -- Thinking Inside the Box

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Coffins – Thinking Inside the Box

In an episode of Alice Flo said that when her time came she wanted to be cremated and her ashes scattered over Robert Redford.

Christendom has historically been opposed to cremation, probably because of its pagan associations (think of Dido in The Aeneid), and although c’mon-baby-light-my-fire is somewhat more common now, most folks still prefer to be “charitably enclosed in clay” (Henry V). Indeed, to bury the dead is one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy (Missale Romanum, p. 33).

Our Lord Himself was buried (He didn’t stay buried, of course) clothed in a shroud, but when possible a box is preferable. And in order to bury someone in a box, someone else must first make the box.

Now ‘way down yonder near New Orleans reposes Abbey St. Joseph, a Benedictine monastery some 120+ years old. The Rule of St. Benedict (6th century constitution written in hopes that people living together wouldn’t squabble at the supper table) is very clear that those associated with a religious order should live a life of work, study, and prayer. And St. Benedict was as serious as Gunny Ermey on a bad helmet day about work; a monk is to milk the cows, till the fields, cut lumber, fire up the forge, and all that sort of thing. A Christian monastery does not live by the begging bowl but by the work of the brothers’ hands. And a gift shop.

Abbey St. Joseph used to do some serious dairying and farming, but now is down to kitchen-gardens and forestry as well as maintaining an out-in-the-woods retreat facility which is very popular with many religious and secular groups despite the lack of neon, gambling, and showgirls. The Abbey also runs a fully-accredited four-year college and helps parishes in the area. In sum, Benedictines do not sit around looking, like, holy and stuff.

Still, the Rule is big on the work-with-your-hands drill. What to do, what to do. Hmmmm. Trees. Lots of trees. Could build stuff out of wood. Why coffins? Actually, the brothers at St. Joseph’s have been making coffins for, again, some 120 years for their own end-of-life use. Even bishops have asked to be buried in coffins made by hand by the Benedictines, and other people, too, began asking about coffins for their loved ones.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the idea of being buried in a plain, unpretentious box handmade by men who prayed over it while building it – and sometimes listened to New Orleans Saints’ football games on the radio – is more comforting than an expensive, assembly-line, upholstered, chrome-handled, Buick-y, superheterodyne metal construct more solid – and more expensive – than your first car.

So the brothers agreed to make a few more coffins for sale. Not many boxes; this isn’t Willow Run out on the creek near Covington. Just a few boxes for a little income. And how appropriate that the brothers of a monastery named for St. Joseph, the patron of craftsmen, should craft good and useful things out of wood.

Alas, the State of Louisiana and The Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors cried “Prohiberimus!”

It seems that in Louisiana burying folks is a closed-shop, and that includes the funereal accessories. Even the Louisiana legislature, that model of honesty, efficiency, and service which is the envy of the civilized world, forbids the monks to sell unregulated boxes to people who want unregulated boxes. There is no word on whether or not the monks will be permitted to whittle and then sell unregulated birdhouses or unlicensed windchimes. One wonders if a mourner in Louisiana risks prison time for picking unauthorized flowers from his own unauthorized yard or buying unauthorized flowers from an unauthorized florist and placing said unauthorized flowers on Grandpa’s grave without fee-paid supervision from The Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directions.

In order to sell plain pine boxes the Abbey would have to become a funeral home, complete with embalming facilities, and the monks would have to spend a few years learning how to bury the dead government-style. Understand that this requirement stands even if the brothers never embalm one body or carry out one funeral – this is just to sell boxes, pine boxes.

Alas that the Benedictines at Abbey St. Joseph hadn’t thought to build little mosques instead; the State of Louisiana would have backed away in terror at the possibility of being labeled insensitive.

A disclaimer: The brothers of Abbey St. Joseph are kind and patient in putting up with my presence for two or three days most every year. This is probably because Abbot Justin hasn’t yet discovered that every now and then Fr. Raph and I sneak out back for a cigar.

-30-

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wedding Bullet Blues

Mack Hall

The AP reports that in rural Turkey last Sunday a wedding went off with a bang when the groom shot his father and two of his aunts. Besides taking out Dad and some aunties the groom wounded eight other merry-makers when he discharged his automatic rifle in a moment of giddy happiness at having married such a wonderful girl.

Actually, that reminds me of some of the stories I’ve heard about my ancestors.

Shotgun weddings are so last week; the fashion now is automatic-weapons weddings.

And what a lark when the happy little children, led by the ring-bearer and the flower girl, scrambled merrily for the spent shell casings!

Grooms in most other nations would be happy with a slice of cake and a glass of champagne, but in Turkey the wedding reception is apparently a happy Kalashnikov moment.

This must have been a challenge for the wedding photographer: “Okay, beautiful bride, just hold up your new father-in-law’s severed head; I’ll photoshop the rest of him in later…now smile…”

Maybe that was after the happy bride and groom cut the cake with the bayonet that great-grandpa used on unarmed Greek and British prisoners in 1918.

Imagine the challenges for the wedding planner in a Turkish wedding: groom’s men relatives’ side, groom’s women relatives’ side, bride’s men relatives’ side, bride’s women relatives’ side.

And just what firearms do the groomsmen carry -- the traditional musket, the elegant and understated Walthers PPK, or the manly .44 magnum?

It must be a poignant moment for all when imam or mullah says: “I pronounce you man and wife. Husband, you may now beat the snot out of your new bride.”

Older women reminisce with their husbands about the past with joy: “Suleiman, remember the first time punched me on that moonlit night, and how you whispered to me that you would despise me forever?”

And then the gifts: for the groom, three goats, a box of ammunition, and a blank fatwah for killing any one person the groom doesn’t like. For the bride, a new mop, bucket, broom, and scrub brushes. A touching fashion this year was the presentation of certificates of donations, in the name of the groom (the bride doesn’t count), for the coming triumphal mosque at the site of the 9.11 victory over the infidels in New York City. Moreover, the certificates were printed in soy ink on recycled paper.

Late in the evening the bride tossed her hand grenade to her friends.

But all good things must come to an end, and as the bride meekly followed her husband through a double line of his friends, not hers, his car, not theirs, was decorated with the customary nuptial signs: “Death to Greece and Israel,” “Nuke the Great Satan Amerika,” and “Now Go Make New Little Martyrs.”

Sniff. It just makes one want to cry.

-30-

Friday, August 6, 2010

BRAVEHEART and TITANIC -- Joyful Comedies

Anyone who can watch Braveheart and Titanic, especially the endings, without tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks has no soul.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Manzanar

Notes from the Okay American Road Trip

Mack Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com


Folks’ vacation narratives are almost always boring, so the Gentle Reader may wish to skip this and go on to something more Snooki and Chelsea.

Roswell, New Mexico

Little Green Men – these aliens come from China. Whoever started the rumors about flying bread-and-butter plates was a marketing mad-man genius, and Roswell’s main runway is a merry we-have-come-in-peace-gauntlet of shops selling toys space ships and tees featuring LGM, and storefront, oh, museums advertising The Truth about UFOs. It’s all good fun. But why are there never any Little Green Women?

Lincoln, New Mexico

All of the little town of Lincoln is a historic site and features many buildings, including Tunstall’s Store, Murphy’s Store (which was also a courthouse, jail, and Masonic Lodge), and San Juan Bautista Church. A ten-dollar ticket gets you into the public buildings and sites, but of course walking around a looking is free. The one-day ticket is also good for other New Mexico State Monuments at Jemez, Coronado, Bosque Redondo, Fort Sumner, Fort Selden, and the El Camino Real International Heritage Center.

The current governor of New Mexico, angling for re-election, is considering pardoning that lethal little freak Billy the Kid because long-ago territorial governor Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben-Hur, had agreed to give the Kid a pardon for ratting out his homies. However, B the K continued to murder people and steal their stuff, so any pardon would have been irrelevant since the nasty little dude well deserved The Long Drop for his post-state’s-evidence murders.

As for Tunstall, Murphy, and McSween, they were turf warriors toting fire arms instead of cell ‘phones, and hiring hit-men to murder each other. The Lincoln County War was a gang squabble over government contracts and monopolies, and all the participants were killed or died broke and broken. The one fellow who came out of it looking pretty good was Sheriff Pat Garrett, a stand-up man who put an end to a pathological weirdo. History has been unfair to him.

Magdalena, New Mexico

Magdalena was a large mining and cowtown on the Santa Fe, which long ago pulled up tracks and trucked out of town. The old depot remains as a little museum and library. My father was in the CCC in nearby Horse Springs, which no longer exists as even a name on the map. Also nearby is the VLA – Very Large Array – of very large parabolic receivers trying to receive messages from Captain Kirk or from Little Green Men.

Springerville, Arizona – the morning temperature was 64 degrees.

Fort Apache is a curious place, situated in the middle of the White Mountain community. The first Apache I saw was hitchhiking absent-mindedly while talking on his cell ‘phone and listening to his ear-bud-box-noise-thingie. He wore knee pants and a ball cap.

The Army left Fort Apache in 1922, and the fort is now home to the Theodore Roosevelt School in some handsome buildings. Some of the military buildings, especially the officers’ quarters, are still in use, and there is a nice little visitors’ center / museum headed by a University of Texas graduate. Inside there is the now almost-requisite faux First Nations dwelling reconstruction and a video of a medicine man relating a creation story, but the overlaid drum and flute seemed stagey and the Harley-Davidson cap – well, I dunno.

A few miles away up a dirt track and past the beer cans the red-rock ruins and re-ruins of an ancient pueblo called Kinishba repose silently on a mesa. A 1930s attempt at reconstruction, imaginative at best, is collapsing back into the ages, but the high walls and wreckage and isolation give one pause. Who will be meditating upon our ruined buildings a thousand years from now?

Winslow – there not much to see here except rail lines and blowing dust and small-town streets and that famous corner, which the city parents have nicely fitted out with a mural, a bronze statue of a hitchhiker, and a cherry-red 1950s Ford flatbed in primo condition. Yes, I had my picture taken, but it’s all a tribute to an event which never happened made as a song by musicians who perhaps have never even seen Winslow. No Little Green Men.

Kingman sells itself for maintaining more authentic Route 66 road than any other community, and does a good job of it. The usual souvenir stores obtain, and in the old town area the Power House visitors’ center and Route 66 Museum (and it really was an electrical generation plant) is a very nice stop. Across the road is a little part with a really big Santa Fe steam locomotive and folks selling some nice arts and crafts and some awful Chinese knives. You’ll see lots of beautifully maintained 1950s wheels.

Kingman is the home of Andy Devine, and if you are under sixty you probably wonder what new fusion band that is.

Oatman is a former mining town along the old Route 66 from Kingman to Needles, California. The drive from Kingman is eleven slow miles of I’wonder-if-I’m-going-to-fall-screaming-to-my-death-today terror; from Kingman to Needles isn’t bad at all.

The town was prosperous until 1942 when the federal government whimsically banned mining for gold, collapsing the local economy and impoverishing individuals, families, and companies. Oh, yeah, that helped the war effort. The very narrow main street, about four blocks long, is gauntletted with tourist shops and features the usual middle-aged-guys-shooting-blanks gunfight at noon, but the best part is that the descendants of the miners’ burros wander around town begging for handouts (bring carrots) and doing naughty things in the street.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned in the hotel. Gable often took some quiet-time in Oatman, probably the only place in the world where he didn’t have to be CLARK GABLE in all caps.

The thermometer outside the hotel stood at 120. After Oatman the laptop computer was never again able to send or receive email (maybe the Little Green Men…), but the burros didn’t seem to mind.

-30-

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Taos Plaza - Feast Days of Saint James & Saint Anne (Santiago y Santana)

Taos Plaza - Feast Days of Santiago y Santana

Taos Plaza - Feast Days of Saint James & Saint Anne (Santiago y Santana)

Taos Plaza -- World War I Memorial

Ranchos de Taos -- Plaza

Ranchos de Taos -- Plaza

Ranchos de Taos -- Plaza

Flowers, San Francisco de Aziz

Ranchos de Taos -- San Francisco de Aziz

Ranchos de Taos -- San Francisco de Aziz

Cap Found at Kinishba Ruins. The Back Reads "Native Pride."

Detail, Kinishba Ruins, Probably from 1930s Reconstruction

Kinishba Ruins

Kinishba Ruins & An Inhabitant

Kinishba Ruins

Kinishba Ruins

Kinishba Ruins

Fort Apache

Fort Apache -- The Grinder

Fort Apache -- Detail of Corner of C.O.'s House