Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shopping for a Gun on a Snowy Evening

Shouldn't a sporting goods store clerk be just a little nervous about selling weapons to customers who break down doors and stomp on each other?

'Tis the Season to be Feral

Mack Hall, HSG

‘Tis the Season to be Feral

Perhaps the chaos began on election day, when most Texans lined up in the darkness, some camping in tents, eagerly awaiting the opening of the polls so that they could make wise, prayerful choices in the selection of their own laws and leaders.

The real crowd dynamics began with the Annual Holy Buying of Chinese %#@&, just before Advent.  On Envy Friday a woman shopping in an Up-Against-the-Wall Mart in California discharged pepper spray at dozens of her fellow believers.  She was desperate to buy the last in-stock microscope to help her daughter win a science scholarship. 

Screaming hordes of wild-eyed literates bashed down the doors of bookstores in cities everywhere, fighting for the latest translation of St. Augustine’s City of God.  One man was stabbed in the hand while reaching for a copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  “It’s a metaphorical jungle reminiscent of the post-modernist school of deconstructionist theory in there,” he said while being bandaged by the medics in the parking lot.

In music stores, the theft of boxed sets of Poulenc, Rautavaara, and Corigliana have caused real safety problems.  “We had mall security escort a woman to her car with her Lyons Opera Chorus and Orchestra CD of Les Dialogues des Carmelites,” reported Tiffany Defarge, a store employee.

Police responded to a 911 call from a religious goods store one minute after midnight with a report that two women were trying to strangle each other with rosary beads and that a flash-mob was stampeding through the aisles stealing bibles.  The situation grew really ugly with an embedded dispute regarding the merits of the Douay-Rheims versus the Precious Moments versions.  The brawl spilled outside with The Spirit of Vatican II-istas and the Traditionalissimos punching each other in a bitter dispute about dynamic equivalence as opposed to closer Latin meanings in the new English translation of the canon of the Mass.

Crowd control was also a problem outside Goodwill and Salvation Army stores because of people camping out in long lines all night long, each fiercely determined to be the first to donate warm winter coats and good used toys to poor children.

Another crowd situation obtained in shoe stores where concerned fathers lined up to buy their children good, sensible, feet-healthy shoes.

Numerous flight delays were reported because in overcrowded airports all over America healthy people were insistent that the disabled and the elderly be allowed to board first.

Finally, a representative of the NBA has announced that the basketball season will not begin on Christmas Day.  “It would be insensitive for any for-profit organization to show disrespect to a minority religion on one of their holy days.  Christians will want to be home with their families after morning worship, opening gifts and playing with their children and enjoying Christmas dinner.  We want to join with America’s leading retailers and the American people who have in the past month led the way in demonstrating respect for 2,000 years of Christian faith.”

Oh, yeah.

Now back to The Hallmark Channel.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Crusader Birdwatcher

A mediaeval knight was an enthusiastic birdwatcher, so enthusiastic that he was more than a little pushy, and intimidated birds.  He was a martlet-haunting Templar.
cf. Macbeth

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Europe, Water is Not Water

Mack Hall, HSG

In Europe, Water is Not Water

England…is now bound in with shame
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds 

Richard II, II.i.64ff

After a three-year study, government courtiers in Europe – that is, the Belgian Empire -- have concluded – or have been ordered to conclude - that water is not water, and that anyone who observes the scientific and logical fact that water is indeed water can be imprisoned for two years (

Specifically, any claim, such as the label on a bottle, that water can help rehydrate a thirsty human is illegal. 

What would the oligarchs assembled in Brussels prescribe in place of water – dust?

The root word of hydration and dehydration is hydor, Greek for water.  Greece, another colony of the Belgian Empire, might want to bring up a point of order in the matter.  Hydration means the presence of water, and dehydration means a lack of water.  It’s all about the water, except that by Belgian colonial law, it had better not be.

This is the same empire which until 2008 promulgated punitive laws against selling bananas that are bent.  Clearly Belgian imperial scientists are more bananas than the fruit.  Perhaps the Brussels sprouts will someday rule against bananas that taper towards their ends, against tomatoes for being red, or against celery for being crunchy. 

The law that water shall not be water becomes operative next month.

Any authoritative body that can rule that water shall not be water and can require that people be imprisoned for disagreeing with the edict is a monstrosity to which no nation and no individual can be required to obey.  Certainly the people of Britain are up in metaphorical arms – because they are no longer permitted to own real arms – about being bullied by their colonial masters in Brussels. 

Perhaps Britons under Belgian humiliation have read with fresh understanding the second chapter of the American Declaration of Independence.

The Queen, who can speak in defense of her people, is silent in the face of Belgian colonial oppression.

The democratically elected Parliament, which must speak, is as a body equally acquiescent in the matter of “a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations” against the people they purport to represent.

The Prime Minister?  Too busy doing the white-wine-and-cheese thing with the evil little empire.

Individual Britons who speak against being subject to a foreign power are dismissed as racists, which is curious on several levels, the least of which is that the British and their Belgian overlords share much the same DNA.  A more relevant point is this – what has DNA got to do with justice?  A human is a human is a human, whether in Peterborough or in Naples, and needs lots of clean drinking water for survival each day.  All the kept scriveners in all the porphyry halls of power cannot change the truth.

More than one observer has noted another truth, that while the Constitution of the United States begins with “We the People…,” the European Constitution begins with ”HIS MAJESTY, THE KING OF THE BELGIANS…” (, in all capital letters.

And that’s all wet.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Have Yourself a Misplaced Prepositional Christmas

Have Yourself a Misplaced Prepositional Christmas

Christmas on the Main

Christmas in the Park

Christmas on the Strand

Dickens on the Strand

Christmas Around the World

Christmas in the Country

Christmas on the Square

And Advent is not here yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

1.  I am extending the period for earning ten extra points to Wednesday.  If I have your well-written and complete research paper in my hand by 11:10 A.M. on Wednesday, I will award you ten extra points unless your paper is awful.  I will also accept your paper as an email attachment that I actually receive -- good intentions cannot be graded -- and that will print out on the very ordinary electronic gadgets I possess. 

Remember always to print extra copies of your research paper.  Computers, emails, and friends who swear they will get your paper to me are not reliable.

2. Given our week of come-and-go English buffet, make an effort to meet with me if you are having problems with your research paper or with your persuasive mini-essays; I am here for you and want you to succeed.  I will be available at the usual class times and am almost always on campus an hour or more before class.  If you don't see me, ask someone -- don't be shy! 

3. There are no extra points for turning in your persuasive mini-essays early, but you'll enjoy your holiday more if you do.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Waterboard Texas?

Mack Hall, HSG

Waterboard Texas?

When the crowds in the mall are just a bit too much, the wise shopper knows that for a little solitude you simply pop over to the book store.  After all, most folks own more pairs of shoes than they do books, and avoid book stores as they would the more malodorous sorts of reptiles.  Parents fearfully yank children away from book store windows – “Don’t go in there, son; you might start thinking or something.  Let’s go to Xtreem Outlet Junction Factory Outfitters and get us some tee-shirts with pictures of guitar-playing vampires on ‘em.”

Democracy, sadly, is much the same way – if you want to be alone, just go vote.

On Election Day very few of us flouted the memory of King George III and all tyrants everywhere by marking a ballot.  My assigned poll was not at a church or synagogue of my choice, and certainly not convenient; the Attorney General of the State of Texas apparently feels that exploring the countryside will keep y’r ‘umble scrivener out of trouble.  Perhaps real Texans don’t vote close to home; they make great journeys.  Or maybe the attorney general just doesn’t like me.

As I made my lonely way to the polls I fancied I heard in the distance the ghostly voice of Colonel Rogers calling out “I’ll see you at sundown.”

But at my assigned vote-arena there were no A.C.O.R.N.istas in berets and leather coats and sunglasses wielding baseball bats, and no comrades yelping at loyal Americans, so voting was a pleasant if somewhat isolated experience.  Dust blew silently across the empty parking lot, and lonely election signs fluttered forlornly in the desolate wind. 

But where were The People?

O where were the descendants of those sturdy patriots who braved the winter at Valley Forge?  Where were the scions of the thousands of men who at Gettysburg established forever the noble idea that all Americans shall be free?  Where were the inheritors of all the men and women who first plowed this land, who cleared the forests, who fought diseases, who with work and sweat and blood and faith established this Shining City on a Hill?

Possibly at home nodding agreement to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the made-in-China radio.

The most annoying and least informative radio ad this election season featured a very small and inarticulate rent-a-mob chanting something that sounded like “Waterboard Texas!  Phluf-Phluf-Phloo!”  Really.  And after an individual said something about Texas needing more water, the occupy-a-mob again bayed “Waterboard Texas!  Phluf-Phluf-Phloo!  Waterboard Texas!  Phluf-Phluf-Phloo!” 

Upon examining the ballot I opined that the aforegarbled “Phloo” was probably an allusion to Proposition (or “prop,” as we political sophisticates like to say) 2 on the ballot, which did indeed refer to water, but which was unclear as to purpose of the allusion.  Would voting for this amendment causeth the gentle rain to falleth from the empty skyeth?  Since the wording was unhelpful, and the radio ad was both unhelpful and annoying, I voted against the amendment.

What genius thought that four or five Occupy-rejects mumbling a chant would constitute (as it were) a rational argument for a constitutional amendment?

In the event, Proposition (proposition – doesn’t sound quite nice, does it?) 2 won by a few percentage points, suggesting that two or three other folks in Texas also voted.

Given that certain elements in our bureaucracies have on occasion disallowed the ballots of our young men and women serving overseas, our domestic failure to vote is not simply a failure to observe an abstract principle.  A failure to vote lets down the young people protecting our right to vote.  Serving in the military often means loneliness, separation from the soldier’s loved ones; voting should never be a matter of isolation.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

John Steinbeck - "We have only one story"

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
quoted in the website Happy Catholic

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Remembrance Day, 2011

Mack Hall, HSG

Keeping the Faith on Remembrance Day

"I will never stand for a national anthem again. I will turn my back and I will raise a fist."

-      S.E.A.L. / Not-a-S.E.A.L  Viet-Nam-Veteran / Not-a-Viet-Nam-Veteran Jesse Ventura, nee’ James Janos, on having a bad day at an airport

In the spring of 1915 a 45-year-old physician buried a young friend outside a dressing station along a canal in Belgium.  Major McCrae was too old to be serving in the mud of Ypres, he was asthmatic, and this was his second war, but he never broke faith with Canada or with the wounded lads who needed him.

Major McCrae read the Anglican burial service – “in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection” - over Lieutenant Alexis Helmer because the chaplain was elsewhere in the field.

The next day, while taking a break from surgery and rounds, Major McCrae strolled outside the tents (donated by the people of Bhopal) and sat on the tailgate of an ambulance alongside a canal.  He looked out across the wreckage and the mud, and considered the only brightly-colored things in that blighted landscape of disaster.  He took out a notebook, and wrote “In Flanders fields the poppies blow…”

John McCrae’s life was one of purpose, work, learning, and service.  He was born in Ontario in 1872, and joined his home town militia at age 16.  While working his way through college he was commissioned in the Toronto militia, The Queen’s Own Rifles, and at 22 was the commanding officer.

Commanding officer.  At 22.  He was not sitting in a Tim Horton’s or a Starbuck’s wearing knee-pants and a child’s cap while whining into a cell ‘phone about how unfair life was, even though he suffered asthma and had to, well, work.

John McCrae served with an artillery unit in the Boer War in South Africa, and then worked as a physician and professor of medicine in the United States and in Canada.

Long before the Guns of August (cf. Barbara Tuchman), John McCrae, from the little town of Guelph, Ontario lived a life of such adventure that even Teddy Roosevelt might have envied him:

Militia (we would call it the National Guard) as a private soldier, as an officer, and later as commanding officer

High school teacher - mathematics and English Literature


Poet (as in published, not the perpetrator of undisciplined whines on MyBookFaceSpaceMeMeMe)

Physician – surgeon, pathologist, epidemiologist, pediatrician

Professor of medicine

Author of several medical textbooks



In 1914, Dr. John McCrae, a successful physician and author in his mid-forties, a veteran who’d done his bit in South Africa at the turn of the century, a man of uncertain health, didn’t have to go anywhere.  He could have stayed in private practice, written more books, and admired the flowers in his own garden in Canada instead of the blood-poppies in Belgium.

But he went.  And he wrote:

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The words may sound shallow to some who have been poisoned with decades of fashionable cynicism, but they were not to Major McCrae.  He was not a computerized cartoon or a muscled oaf posturing for the television. Indeed, his photograph is of a quite ordinary-looking man in a rather untidy uniform featuring but one modest ribbon.  He was real.  And he was there.

In January of 1916, only eight months later, Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae, suffering from cold, exhaustion, overwork, and the horrors of two wars, died of pneumonia in the hospital he commanded in France.

John McCrae did not break faith with his country.

He did not break faith with his patients – English, Canadian, French, Belgian, and Indian soldiers.  He did not break faith even with the wounded German boys who were brought in to his care.

John McCrae did not break faith.  He did not turn his back.

Something to remember on Remembrance Day.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Our Mothers on Christmas

Mack Hall, HSG

For our Mothers on Christmas

Beyond all other nights, on this strange Night,
A strangers’ star, a silent, seeking star,
Helps set the wreckage of our souls aright:
It leads us to a stable door ajar   
And we are not alone in peeking in:
An ox, an ass, a lamb, some shepherds, too -
Bright star without; a brighter Light within
We children see the Truth three Wise Men knew

For we are children there in Bethlehem
Still shivering in that winter long ago
We watch and listened there, in star-light dim,
In cold Judea, in a soft, soft snow

The Stable and the Star, yes, we believe:
Our mothers sing us there each Christmas Eve