'N RANDOM STUFF FROM ALL OVER
It's 1:20 p.m. and I'm still in my jammies and have all kinds of things to do (must buy new dishwasher), but I've been going off on some pretty entertaining tangents in the last couple of days to distract myself, and might as well report on them. But first:
PRIORITY ONE: BULLETIN FROM THE 'STANS
Nephew LT. E-BOY, USN, "friended" me this morning, so he can report in on the Facebook from Afghanistan, from whence he checked in today to say that he had arrived at Baghram Air Base, en route to his destination in [REDACTED] province to spend the better part of a year in re-construction work. ["re-"? Was there that much in Afghanistan that was ever "constructed"?]
Once upon a time it was "Hell no, we won't go!" But it's a new world out there in the younger generation. Lt. E-Boy spent 4 years at what may be the most tough and competitive college in the country, the U.S. Naval Academy, and then spent three months at a time cruising beneath the waves of the vast Pacific in a nuclear submarine. But he traded in the waves for the peaks and windswept valleys of Afghanistan, as a volunteer willing to go where sailors never go, and place himself in the kind of danger that's a little more immediate than a missile's distance from ship to target.
These kids today!
That's what they do. Where did we find them?
WEEKEND IN FLORIDA
Unlike the typical snowbirds from the north, we headed to the Gulf Coast to be part of the winging of #3 son, who is now a fully qualified Naval Aviator/Navigator (Naval Flight Officer). Early on the day, under the watchful eye of St. Brendan the Navigator, we had a small contingent of the Wingees in the chapel for a blessing of their wings -- a simple but very moving rite, crowned by singing four verses of the Navy Hymn. Awesome.
In a very fine ceremony at the National Naval Air Museum (cool) about a dozen students -- Navy and Air Force, with German, Italian, and Saudi classmates -- had family or superiors place their hard-earned wings on their uniforms.
It was my turn to wing a kid (the spousal unit had winged the elder one), and I did my job: carefully place wings one quarter inch above "thanks-for-showin'-up" ribbon; press two pointy prongs through uniform coat; punch Wingee in the chest until pointy prongs leave small red marks on skin (if possible -- as it turned out there was too much jacket for skin contact).
Since Flyboy was only the second in line (preceded by a Saudi, who had no one to belt him), the crowd seemed unprepared to see a gray-haired woman pound her son in the chest, so it elicited a small chorus of "oohs". Over in the reception line, Flyboy's C.O., a square-jawed Marine with a chest full of fruit salad, told me I done good.
By nightfall it was raining like fury, and I was eating shrimp and crab and fried green tomatoes. Finest kind.
ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS
I'M JAMMIN' WITH THE PROS
We got invited to a Third Day of Christmas Party (on December 28, for those of you in Rio Linda, although technically that's probably the Fourth Day). The invitation said to "Bring your instruments." I had a suspicion what that might mean, but I had the brass to do as directed, thinking I might join in with some pretty amazing people.
And they were there. Our hosts have a huge farm house in the Peterborough area, with what can only be called a "great room", in the style of a castle, except that it's all timber. And our hosts are also old school friends of Canada's finest Irish family band, called by just their surname "Leahy"-- eleven kids, who form up in various combinations to tour and record, playing fiddles and step dancing (simultaneously, which is no mean feat), and generally tearing up the place. The best fiddler in the Leahy family is married to the other best fiddler in Canada, Natalie McMaster, and she came along to the party too.
So there I was, having the nerve to bump away on my bodhran with the best of the best. I kept up fine with the jigs, but the reels were just too fast for me, so I tom-tommed as best I could. They are such very nice folks, all the Leahys, and were as welcoming and friendly to me as could be. Great way to keep the season up past the 25th, which is as it should be.
Christmas was spent with as much of the fam as we could muster: two out of My Three Sons at home, one with new wife and even newer unborn oven-bun in tow. I guess at some point I'll get used to people passing around their ultra-sound pictures -- it's just a little, er, intimate when you think about how you're checking out somebody's uterine studio, eh? But we do love the anticipation as grand-baby #2 thrives and prepares to make an entrance in May.
Hope he/she doesn't work too hard to upstage the other scheduled production, my Play of the Resurrection for the upcoming Chester Cycle. Another year, another medieval "Wagons, HO-O-O!"
BACK TO THE RANDOM
Spent last night and this morning revising my little sheaf of half-a-dozen poems, wondering if anyone else will ever read them. Not a total waste of time. Memo to self: Must take initiative to see where people go to publish poetry, and seek recognition and admiration from someone other than self.
Spent yesterday afternoon reading about the Bauhaus, the better to dump on the whole vision when doing architecture lectures. (BWA-HA-HA, open minds be damned!) And you know, the more you read, the more you realize that there is no better criticism to be made of the movement than to listen to those who admire it. I found a much-linked 3-part video series about Walter Gropius and the theory behind his HQ built in Dessau, Germany. It contains all the clues as to why this style is not good for humanity (or at least for the individual within humanity), nor was it ever intended to be. Fascinating stuff.
Pay particular attention, class, to the difference between the principles the masters taught and imposed upon their students, and the principles which governed the way they chose to live themselves, just down the road, in the private homes.
IT'S ONE OF THOSE WEEKS WHERE I THANK AL GORE
FOR INVENTING THE INTERNETS
I keep having these evenings where we're watching something on the tube and I've got the lap-top out doing the background search. For example, the spousal unit is recently enamoured of the series Deadwood -- of course, he watches just for its portrayal of the development of social institutions out of chaos, doncha know -- certainly not for the cusswords and boobies.
But there I am on the Internets, reading about the real Deadwood, South Dakota, and all the real people who are the basis of the television characters. [More on that at a later date -- I can only do so much random in one day.]
So this week, me and the Internets had one of those spasms where a face or name pops into my head that I haven't thought of, literally (as Biden would say) in decades.
When this happens, just on a chance I Google the name, and check out the Facebook thing, and by gumbo, more often than not, there they be in one form or another -- either they've got a business, or have written a letter to the editor, or have directed a string of Broadway shows, Hollywood movies, and TV series.
Not kiddin' about that last part -- considering my decades spent on the fringes of the world of theatre, it's not so unlikely that some old familiar face will have made itself theatrically notorious. My own "career", such as it was, has been predominantly amateur hour -- my closest brush with production on a really high professional level was actually my very first job, snagged when I was but 18, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a place which, while technically an arena for non-professionals ["pre-professional" as it was called], was in fact a nursery for many people who went on to long and prestigious careers -- like directing a string of Broadway shows, Hollywood movies, and TV series. Specifically, that would be Ron Lagomarsino I'm talking about -- curly-headed boy from Santa Clara, an old friend who became Truly Famous.
I have been following Ron's career progress for decades, and we corresponded for years (though that has lapsed). But the person whose face and name popped into my head this week for no discernible reason (also a colleague from that long-ago Shakespeare experience) was one whom I never knew very well, and last laid eyes on 38 years ago. So why am I suddenly seeing Paul Myrvold in the corner of my mind's eye? Dunno.
Out comes the lap-top, on go the Internets.
And there he be -- living in small-town California after a productive stint in the Big Apple, doing local theatre, juggling two jobs, and (wait for it...) STILL MARRIED TO THE SAME WOMAN!!!!!.
He's also done the lead in Man of La Mancha at least six times since he went west [that's had me bellowing out show tunes all morning while I made my toast and got the mail -- "I was spawned in a ditch/by a mother who left me there....."], but as far as I'm concerned his name ought to be on a blazing marquis somewhere just for being a liberal artistic baby-boomer capable of celebrating a 40th wedding anniversary. How many of those have there been since Jimmy Stewart?
I know he's a liberal 'cause he's on the Facebook thing, and gives a shout-out to Obama. [gag] I'll overlook that, though, 'cause he and Sylvia have three kids too! [no secrets being revealed here, folks, it's all on the Internets in the public domain] -- and I have this vague recollection that life did not make the stork business easy for them, so good on 'em. More lights, more red carpets, hand these folks the statuette: they're a family!
Kind of sad that this takes me so by surprise, but you live long enough in the Modern Age, and you learn to take nothing for granted.
By the way, Paul's got a couple years on me, and he is lookin' good. That's so not fair. How does that happen when I've been the one up here in the deep-freeze for 35 years?
All this is of no great moment to anything in my life -- just a snapshot of the interwoven world we live in: the slightly creepy quality of its shrinking privacy, but the compensatory aspect of its capacity for connectedness.
(I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence -- there's a job for me somewhere in government.)
ANOTHER TRIUMPH FOR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE
The Premier of Newfoundland/Labrador, the rich and oily Danny Williams, apparently needs some heart surgery. I could easily imagine that little old St. John's might not have everything he needs for a complicated procedure, but surely it could be accessed in Montreal or Toronto.
But NO-O-O-O -- for some reason Danny, who has no reason to be content with anything but the best, is trotting off to the U.S. of A. to patch up his cod-nourished heart.
This has not escaped notice in the American press: check out the Drudge Report, Instapundit, BeltwayBlips, the Politico, RealClearPolitics, and JustOneMinute:
OK, fun's fun but let's have a "To be fair" moment - Newfoundland & Labrador has a population of roughly half a million, which would not even make it a big-time, NFL-ready city in the US. I would think the premier ought to head to Toronto for top surgery, but he is independently wealthy and prefers US services. No kidding.Heh. Yiss, b'y.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CHURCH
Was happy to have spurred a special parish brunch collection for victims of the Haiti earthquake, for money that we could count on going straight to the heart of the matter, as it was collected for the use of the Missionaries of the Poor, the Jamaica-based order of brothers with whom I spent the preponderance of four missionary trips to Kingston, back in the day.
Their Haitian outpost (in the north, at Cap Haitien) was not hit by what seems to have been a very localized quake, but they will be dealing with refugees and other needy folks from the epicentre. If you're looking for a target of charitable giving, which you can be absolutely certain will go directly to the victims with barely a particle of overhead, send your dollar$ to the Missionaries of the Poor.
Also in the Haiti-saving business, a splendid little crew of ex-Marines and others who blew in and blew out of Haiti so fast, mission accomplished, that I didn't get time to bring attention to their efforts and advertise their bling. It was a typically Marine-produced surgical strike [and I mean that literally -- hat-tip Joe Biden.....], with a small, well-equipped, fully qualified team of do-ers who shoved aside the bureaucracies and competing interests and got 'er done.
I'm sure their success will lead them to other similar missions, so go right on ahead and check them out, send them dough, and buy their shirts (some design elements contributed by my niece). It's all right here, and it's called TEAM RUBICON. Ooh-rah.
CANDLEMAS -- ANCIENT FEAST, TIMELESS MASS
Joined a motley crew of singers to assist in the super-duper Missa Solemnis carried out by our local representative of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (strayed traditionalist lambs now back in the fold). We have but one in Toronto, Fr. Howard Venette, but on these occasions he is ably assisted by seminarians wanting to learn the old ways. Music was decent -- not up to the standards of the Choir Formerly Known As Mine but quite pleasurable to do, some chant, some hymns, some polyphony.
Some memories, some longings.
As usual, the Anchoress covers the feast beautifully.
The Anchoress also says her bit about the coming Super Bowl ad controversy, with the acceptance of a Focus on the Family-funded pro-life ad (in the most literal sense, Joe!) telling the personal story of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow's narrow escape when his mother chose to bring him to term rather than abort him because her health was in danger.
Big Surprise: the ad has caused all the usual suspects to go apoplectic at the thought of abortion dissent being given air-time before this huge television audience.
Really Big Surprise: pro-choice Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins calls the ad's critics on their obvious intolerance and suppression of genuine choice. Wow. She even refers to the biggest nay-sayers, the NOW gang, as the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time". Heh. Stunning.
And yet so obvious. Remember Madonna's early hit, Papa Don't Preach? The same forces of "choice" went ape-sh#t that the traitorous Madonna had dared to record a message about the determination of a pregnant teen to keep her baby. Of course, it wasn't really a "message", it was just an anecdote: one story of one girl who "got in trouble" and was telling her father in no uncertain terms that she, one lone girl in one situation, was going to keep her one baby. At no point did the song lyrics drift into advice or admonitions about any other girl in any other set of circumstances -- never did it recommend a particular course of action, or condemn another. It was a story. And the feminists pilloried her for it.
People that criticized the song's message include Ellen Goodman, a national syndicated columnist, who called the video "a commercial for teenage pregnancy". Feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, the spokeswoman of the National Organization of Women (NOW), angrily called for Madonna to make a public statement or another record supporting the opposite point of view. Alfred Moran, the executive director of Planned Parenthood of New York City, also criticized the song, fearing that it would undermine efforts to promote birth control among adolescents and that it would encourage teenage pregnancy.
Hey, if Madonna couldn't keep the femininnies happy, what's a poor Jesus-loving beefcake footballer to do? Hope he fares better than those reactionary rockers, Seals and Crofts, who many years ago had the almighty gall to put out a song which involved genuine advocacy of a position on this controversial subject, a song called Unborn Child. Wooooh! Did the cr&p ever hit the feminist fan on that one!
Ah, Choice -- it's a beautiful thing. Long as it's the right one. Otherwise, duck!
POLITICAL NOTES [not possible to avoid them]
It's tradition for the sitting President to appear and speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Apparently Mr. Obama was urged to skip it this year, but it's nice to know that he still has at least a few political/public service instincts intact, and he did attend.
His speech was notable for what has become his customary tone: whining and scolding and preaching, and singing the chorus from that famous Beatle hit, I, Me, Mine. [He seems to have missed the interview where George Harrison explained that the song was about ego as a problem, not as an ambition. Mr. Obama has an uncomfortable penchant for trying to see how many time he can utter "I, me, and mine" in one speech. This one was no exception, despite the fact that it's supposed to be about faith in God -- well, no wonder he got confused.]
Matters of Ego aside [u-u-u-u-n-n-h.... PUSH!!!!], the President out-did his growing reputation for total cluelessness about the fundamentals of his job, when he repeated an account of heroic American service in Haiti, as carried out by our military. I'm sure he thought this would be a good opportunity to, FOR ONCE, say something complimentary about America and its service members. However, since this is something which does not come naturally to him and he must be fed such material by his handy teleprompter, once again POTUS stepped in it -- revealing not only his ignorance but his supreme overconfidence in spite of that ignorance, and his failure to do his homework about things dear to America's heart.
Mr. Obama told of an American (Haitian descent) Naval officer administering help to an earthquake victim. He identified, or rather mis-identified, one "Christian" Brossard as a "translator" -- in fact, Hospitalman Petty Officer Christopher Brossard is a Navy Corpsman, that trusted and valued adjunct to all Marine companies, as well as other branches, charged with giving emergency medical treatment in the heat of battle before casualties are evac-ed to safety, as well as providing medic services within military hospitals. For Hospitalman Brossard, translating was just a happy accident of his Haitian roots, something he could employ while doing what he came to do.
Mr. Obama's ill-mannered stumble on Brossard's name was inexcusable in this setting, and whoever prepared his remarks should face consequences (which, of course, will never happen). But more telling was the mistake which was Mr. Obama's own, showing the kind of carelessness towards his duties as Commander-in-Chief for which he is now justly famous.
If he had anything but a tin ear for his military responsibilities, Mr. Obama would know that Hospitalman Brossard's highly respected MOS (that's Military Operation Specialty, Mr. President) is that of Navy Corpsman. That's pronounced "COR-MAN", Mr. President, not "CORPSE-MAN", as you said it, TWICE, in your Prayer Breakfast speech.
I know it wasn't part of Saul Alinsky's vocabulary, and it doesn't come up much when you're kibbitzing with Rahm Emmanuel. But, Jaysus, even Jeremiah Wright would know what a corpsman was, and how to pronounce it! How could you get outta Harvard and not recognize the word "corps" on the page, Sir? How did it not come up, even in a non-military context? What sort of crap was on your reading list?
In the pithy words of Dennis Miller (referring, I think, to Bill Clinton, but I wouldn't swear to that), Mr. Obama, if you were any more low-rent, you'd be a spring break destination.
I've had it with this random stuff -- it's 4:00 a.m. Time to catch some Z's.