Sunday, October 31, 2010

What's in Your Calendar?

Mack Hall

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.


Stalin's Office

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Coffee, Tea, or Justice?

Mack Hall

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 (, 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.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Prophet's New Car

Mack Hall

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 and; the other, Christmas in the Summer Country, is available only through 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.


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

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?


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love and the Ascending Aorta

Mack Hall

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.