Monday, October 26, 2015

A Few Fragmented Thoughts in Search of a Thesis

Mack Hall, HSG

A Few Fragmented Thoughts in Search of a Thesis

A cracker purported to be from the Titanic (how do they know?) has been sold for $23,000 at an auction. That’s no big deal; crackers that old were packaged in C-rations.

Or maybe they were talking about one of y’r ‘umble scrivener’s relatives.

Maybe we should sort through our pantries and find genuine antiques to sell – “Hey, John Jacob Astor was carrying this bag of potato chips aboard the Titanic – you can have it for a mere $23,000.”

Election ballots should feature a “none of the above” option at the bottom.

The literacy challenge of our time is for any news writer to generate an article without using “iconic,” “absolutely,” “actually,” “jaw-dropping,” “ground-breaking,” “makeshift shrine,” “_____ of the century,” “worst _________ ever recorded,” or “raising awareness.”

“Snowflake” as a metaphor for a spoiled brat should be good for another month or so.

The recent synod in Rome seemed to be the Church’s equivalent of a staff meeting – a bunch of people sitting around and talking about stuff while hoping some brave soul will make a motion to adjourn.

The death penalty is inappropriate. No judge, jury, prosecution, or defense is without human error. If a man is wrongly imprisoned, he might someday be released. If he has been killed by the state, a “We’re sorry” and a settlement are meaningless. If we really believe in a culture of life then the death penalty should be ended. Except for advertisers whose pop-ups block the Orwellian telescreen.

Chris Christie, who used to be somebody, was recently chastised by Amtrak for being loud and obnoxious while aboard a train. And we had forgotten about this great hope for the Republican Party, who celebrated him for being loud and obnoxious. And then Ted Cruz was the great hope. And then somebody else. And now a wealthy bigot. Once upon a time the Republicans were the party of Eisenhower and Reagan. Now their leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties is a guest list for one of those old-women-screeching-at-each-other shows.

When Ireland won her independence from the British Empire a century ago she then sadly forsook her ancient traditions, murdered a number of her truest sons, and formed yet another tawdry republic whose ethics would disgrace a Chicago street gang. Ireland has been blessed with many great artists, poets, musicians, and good folk, but they seem unwilling to vote for a government that respects them.

Perhaps modern Ireland’s greatest gift to the world was Maureen O’Hara, who died last week at the age of 95. Ireland, although a republic, from 1920 until her death had a great queen in the fiery redhead from Dublin. Maureen O’Hara - ‘Tis Herself indeed.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Listen to the Moon - A Poem

Lawrence Hall

Listen to the Moon

When you are very old, speak to the moon,
Just as you did when you were very young
And if you listen, listen carefully
The moon will continue telling a story
That she began in the long, long ago
Just at the moment when you thought yourself
Too grown-up then to listen to the night
She smiles, and waits, that queen among the stars
For you to grow as wise as once you were:
When you are very old, listen to the moon

The True-Born Englishman Wants his Nap - A Poem

Lawrence Hall

The True-Born Englishman Wants his Nap

Whenever an Englishman wants to sleep
He attends a cricket match, where snores are deep

Another Inadequate Baptismal Metaphor - A Poem

Lawrence Hall

Another Inadequate Baptismal Metaphor

September rain is a baptism of sorts
Redeeming summer’s woods and fields from drought
From death, at least a little while, so they
May vest themselves in robes liturgical

For late October’s frost-time funeral mass
Is celebrated with true festal joy
As in cathedrals, forests of the heart
With autumn filtering down through leafy prayers

The green months then slip softly out of time -
September rain is a baptism of dreams

Where are the Squirrels of Spring? - A Poem

Lawrence Hall

Where are the Squirrels of Spring?

(John Keats wrote much of the first line; I helped him with the rest)

Where are the squirrels of spring? Ay, where are they?
Flattened by a log truck, just yesterday
When old enough to leave the autumn nest
They ran into the road, there flattened, pressed
Though cautioned by their wise sciuridaean sire
They panicked before an approaching tire
They had little time for a valedictory squeal
Before they died, so young, beneath the wheel -
So even if the old folks seem such a bother
You really ought to listen to your father

Deer Season

Lawrence Hall

Deer Season

An autumn morning in the chilly woods
The campfire mostly ashes grey and warm
Some early riser fumbling with the stove
To light the gas and set the coffee pot
On a hissing circle of thin blue fire
While an outraged fox squirrel protests everything
The leaves are damp, pale-pearled with yawning light
From a weak, shivering November sun -
Dogs, men, boys, guns, boots, biscuits, pipes, cigars
Dawn sighing in the pine tops this perfect day

Night Terrors - A Poem

Lawrence Hall

Night Terrors

When in the darkness monsters creeping near
Chase all the dreams from a little boy’s head
And have him clutching the covers in fear
He remembers the flashlight beside his bed
And aims it at the noises in the dark
Grim midnight’s hiddenness and mystery
Where monsters gibber and mutter and bark
He snaps it on – and what there does he see?
Curled warm in her bed, all in a tiny heap
It’s only the dog, snort-snorting in sleep

Halloween Follies of 2015

Mack Hall, HSG

Halloween Follies of 2015

Halloween is dismissed by some as a superstitious folly, though of course it is far less superstitious than the belief that throwing a bucket of cold water over one’s head will cure a sickness suffered by somebody else. Otherwise rational people also believe that a paint stripe will keep two cars from crashing into each other, and that the lights and noises crackling from a little box constitute friendship.

Once a religious observance in honor of all saints, both known and unknown, Halloween was later kept as a children’s amusement but has since deteriorated into the first gimme-more-stuff day of our secular distraction season extending to Super Bowl Sunday

Children once dressed in old bedsheets or other homemade costumes to trick-or-treat under the watchful protection of adults. Adults now act far more childishly than any child, and the children themselves must be kept inside so they will be safe from looting and arson.

Children require only newspaper hats and wooden swords to present themselves as pirates or as Robin Hood. Adults spend money on manufactured costumes, a far more childish thing to do. Instead of cowboys and princesses, adults pretend to be the very persons they dislike, which can’t be much fun. Who would want to be a president or a secretary of state instead of a hero?

Given that Halloween is a political mess, here are a few unhelpful contributions to this year’s weirdness in costuming and in decorum:

Costume suggestion - a MePhone with a little human surgically attached.

A man in a suit stumbling around in confusion – clearly this Halloween character is a Republican Party leader.

An ensemble - an anti-gun Democratic congressman protected by guards with guns.

A wireless executive – after accepting the candy this character then advises you that by giving him candy you have agreed to a two-year contract and must give him treats every night or be subject to a fine for early termination of the contract.

MyFaceSpaceBook – this costumed character doesn’t go out and trick-or-treat; it slumps in a chair and friends (sic) pictures of chocolate.

A federal sky marshal – the character points a weapon at the householder and demands better candy.

A vegetarian vampire biting into a head of lettuce.

Donald Trump – this costumed character doesn’t ask for anything; he sends local armed authorities to seize your Halloween treats under Eminent Domain.

Trick-or-treating at the White House: “When the Secret Service man sobers up he’ll give you a nice, healthy acorn, sweetie.”

Trick-or-treating at tech support – “Your visit is important to us. The next available candy will assist you in (click) four (buzz) days. Your visit is important to us…”

Trick-or-treating at the home of an Air Canada cabin attendant: “NO! There isn’t any more candy, eh! We ran out of candy twenty rows ago! Go away!”

Trick-or-treating at the home of a United Airlines cabin attendant: “There’s an extra charge for that.”

Trick-or-treating at the home of an Aeroflot cabin attendant: “We have lots of candy. In Syria. Have you ever visited Syria? Would you like to visit Syria?”

Trick-or-treating at the home of a modern poet: “I, I, I, me, me, me, candy you say trick you say treat you say but my my my my oppressed marginalized victim voiceless voice cries out potty-mouth in serene thunderous existential angst against like stuff I, I, I, me, me, me.”

Yes, merriment is always much better when little pirates, princesses, cowboys, fairies, and heroes are in charge of it.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

An American Hero Who Wasn't an American

Mack Hall

An American Hero Who Wasn’t an American

An American hero died this week. He wasn’t an American, though, so just why he is an American hero needs some explaining.

In 1979, when the President of the United States was so useless that even a Merovingian might despise him, the Ayatollah Khomeini and his murderous mobs decided to seize the American Embassy in Tehran.

Fifty-two Americans were imprisoned and humiliated for 444 days while the President of the United States did little but wallow in his own helplessness.

Happily, not every nation was as feckless. Six American staffers who happened not to be in the embassy during the takeover were smuggled into the Canadian Embassy through the help of others, including – and we must not forget this - Iranians.

Ken Taylor, Canada’s ambassador to Iran in 1979, along with John Sheardown and his wife and other Canadians, hid the Americans for three months while planning an escape for them. The Canadian government generated false passports and a good cover story, and despite poor decisions by the C.I.A. which almost ruined everything, Ambassador Taylor and his staff managed to smuggle the Americans out of Iran on a commercial flight before escaping themselves.

Had this gone bad the Canadians might have been murdered by any of the mobs whose riots and murders and shifting allegiances constituted the Iranian government under the Ayatollahs.

Hollywood, in gratitude to Canada and Ambassador Taylor, made a movie about the operation in which the C.I.A. got the Americans out while the Canadians did little to help. This – and the threat of a wall – is how our nation often treats its best friend and strongest ally.

Mr. Taylor reminded everyone that there were Iranians who knew of the fugitive Americans and risked their own lives in not ratting them out. Not for these brave Iranians and Canadians the concept of “what difference…does it make?”

The other Americans in Tehran spent another long and dreary year in bondage until the day a good man, and a good friend to Canada, took the Oath as President.

Thanks to an American hero who wasn’t an American, Ken Taylor of Canada, six Americans were saved from that horror and degradation.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon him.”